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A few reviews

addiesin

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2049
-No ending debate.

Unless you feel like asking, who was really the child?

The memories and the film's emphasis on the woman who writes them for replicants heavily implied that woman was the child, of course. Maybe it's a pretentious desire for there to be more than what's spelled out on film, or maybe it's the resemblance of the actress's hair and makeup. But I think it would be deliciously ironic if Luv, the psycho violent right-hand to Wallace, was the replicant child she was searching for so desperately. I don't believe that was the intent, but I really wanted to know more about her and why she resembles Rachel so much, and I appreciate that the film doesn't necessarily contradict the idea. Then again, it is super slow, maybe I missed something!
 

mnkykungfu

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^wuuuuuh? I thought the film spelled it out pretty clearly. Both in terms of literally what they say and show, and in terms of that only working as a dramatic reveal if it is who they say, and in terms of it having thematic resonance for both this film and the original. It would complete deflate all that to follow your alternate suggestion, and I can't imagine how that would make sense in the film.
But hey, if you want to make a fan-edit to push that narrative...! Maybe I'm wrong and other people will find that an improvement on the film? I mean, sounds like for TM2YC, it had nowhere to go but up. lol
 

skyled

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John Wick Chapters 2 & 3 (2017 & 2019)
The action and stupid plot continues in the sequels. Sure they're well made and Keanu worked his butt off to be able to handle guns like this, but the movies are way too long and grow tedious. It could be interesting to see them each compressed into ~90 minutes rather than the excessive 130 minutes. It was nice to see Yayan Ruhian aka Mad Dog from the Raid get more American work. A funny scene happened in Chapter 3 where a horse kicks a bad guy in the face, but then they ruined it by having it happen again about 1 minute later.

Rick and Morty - Seasons 2-4 (2015 - 2020)
The show continues to be wildly creative and manic but it didn't get as many laughs out of me as Season 1 did, maybe because I binged them. I previously compared it to a mix of Futurama, Phineas and Ferb, and Superjail!, and I stand by that comparison. The comparison to Futurama is especially good because both shows are able to elicit a surprising amount of emotional response given how wacky they are. While Futurama would have very memorable bittersweet episodes such as Jurassic Bark about Fry's loyal dog and the one about Fry's brother, Yancy; Rick and Morty makes you feel for Rick and his depression in the rare moments where it takes itself seriously.
 

skyled

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Ad Astra - 2019
Lots of people [claim to] love Kubrick's 2001. I think it's a marvelous technical achievement and HAL is a great character, but I find the movie tedious. This movie clearly wants people to regard it as 2001-esque, but I think it's more like 2010. I didn't find it overly slow and it was not boring, with some exciting scenes to liven the pace up, but the plot is rather half-baked and the voice over is mostly dumb. It probably could have been really good if they had a better story driving it.

True Detective - Season 1 (2014)
HBO miniseries about two detectives investigating ritual murder(s). Critics and audiences raved about this show. I thought it was lousy. It's slow and repetitive. It could have easily been a 2 hour movie instead of an 8 hour miniseries. Even though the writer was born in Louisiana, it plays more like a liberal Hollywood fantasy of it. Endless shots of driving past oil refineries, white trash inbred hillbillies, and evil white Evangelical child molesters who secretly practice Santeria (a black Voodoo-ish religion). The writer was also accused of plagiarism. If this is supposedly the "good season", I can't imagine what the others are like. The performances were excellent though. They really made Matthew Maconaughey look haggard for his 2012 scenes.

Jason Bourne - 2016
Bourne returns for his 4th outing. This one is entirely pointless and probably shouldn't have been made since the ending of Number 3 was a nice exit for the character. That being said, if you just like the movies for the action and stunts, this one is almost as good as the others.
 
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skyled

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The Shining - 1980
Kubrick's classic horror film. I think the critics were right about this one the first time around, rather than the more recent reevaluation as part of the Kubrick hagiography. It's too long, it's not scary, it's not suspenseful. Kubrick directs with the intensity of a dispassionate scientist observing an ongoing experiment.

Summer Wars - 2009
Anime film from the director of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Teenage math prodigy spends the Summer with girl from school and her extended family. When the computer metaverse that everybody uses for games/business/banking/etc is hacked by a rogue AI, boy needs to help stop it before it drops a satellite on a nuclear power plant or worse. It's good fun and presents some real stakes but the metaverse aspect is underdeveloped.

Ready Player One - 2018
Spielberg directs this one and uses his skills to overcome the weaknesses of the story. Most of the movie takes place in the metaverse where a crew of gamers are trying to prevent an evil company from taking over the metaverse. If the company takes it over they're going to put ads everywhere. This movie is similar to Summer Wars but it seems they suffer opposite problems. The stakes here are vague and not very drastic, and the world outside of the metaverse is underdeveloped. A fun movie but both this and Summer Wars leave me feeling like they're not living up to what they could be. I think what I really want is a good adaptation of Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash.
 

Hymie

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Wholly agree about The Shining. I've given the film multiple attempts at different points in my life and never found what's so great about it. There's a few good pieces here and there, but overall I just don't connect with this movie (this is true with all Kubrick films for me after Dr. Strangelove). I found Dr. Sleep a much better film and found it far more enjoyable as a whole.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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I’m not really a fan of horror movies. I don’t think of The Shining as a horror movie. But I do think it’s a great movie. I suspect people who dislike The Shining or 2001 go into the films with preconceived notions as to what a haunted house movie or a space movie should be. That’s fine and those that dislike the movies aren’t wrong. But I’ve also noticed that there’s also a recent trend trying to discredit Kubrick seemingly based on more modern sensibilities. I don’t love everything Kubrick has done; not by a long shot. But these are two of my favorites so I felt compelled to defend them. Take that as you will.

And if you don’t like those movies you’ll likely want to stay far away from Tarkovsky.
 

mnkykungfu

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Keizoku-images-c118fd30-4c1b-46fe-925f-3e60f28e9ab.jpg

ケイゾク(Keizoku - 1999)
This is a Japanese series, which work more like British series than American ones. That is, they tell a few episodes and then that's it, the story is done. If it's really popular, maybe they get a sequel series or a movie. This is a really fascinating one for me because it's such an uneven journey with wildly clashing tones.

The first Keizoku ("unsolved cases") series was an unabashed X-Files ripoff. A Tokyo Metropolitan Police officer screws up on the job and is banished to the keizoku department, where careers go to die. Viewers follow the bright new female recruit who requests assignment to the department to make a name for herself by solving these dead cases. While they all seem bizarre and unexplainable, she proves that each one can be solved with good procedural detective work. It was a modest hit.


51wYQ%2BrdfcL.jpg

ケイゾク(Keizoku) 2: SPEC (2010)
This much-delayed sequel series is where this really takes off as somewhat of a remake but also upending expectations. This time, we are introduced through SIT officer (like SWAT) Sebumi, whose own unexplainable screwup leads him to be banished to Keizoku. When he arrives, the sole investigator in the department is a young girl, Toma, who has no social graces and has her arm perpetually wrapped in a sling. Sebumi's re-assignment starts a sudden uptick in new "unsolvable" cases, which Toma is happy to believe are the result paranormal abilities. Sebumi is the sceptic, who insists that muscle and streetwork solve cases over hypothetical deductions. The odd couple interplay is the heart of the series, seeing it through sort of "villain of the week" episodes where Saya basically discovers a new X-man each episode.

I caught this in fits and spurts on TV in Japan, and struggled to understand wtf was going on. The setup is obvious enough, but the names for different abilities (like precognition) are hard to understand, as is all the political and conspiracy theory talk. As the disparate threads introduced each week began to cohere into a complicated story with Hellfire Club-type mutant illuminati councils, I lost the ability to follow the plot. It took me years, but I finally tracked this down with subs.....and it's still not fully explained. A street fortune teller who can really tell fortunes is one thing, but by the end when unspeaking men in suits show up to blow vuvuzelas that teleport people, I was both totally lost and totally hooked.

This is a fascinating watch for anyone looking to get into popular Japanese cinema (not the auteurs) or anime though. The tone, running gags, and use of cultural tropes is like a live action anime. There are some fantastic stylistic elements to it, such as the credit sequences, music, and Toma's Sherlockian crime-solving method. At the end of each case, she uses ink and paper to paint the characters for all the key elements in the mystery. Then she rips them to pieces and scatters them in the air, moving through a cloud of the word bits in slow motion, picking out what's missing to solve the mystery. While the acting can be overly slapstick at times, Erika Toda is a great anchor for the series, and wanting to find out the mystery of her arm kept me watching to the end. While it is somewhat resolved, this teases a sequel film in a post-credit sequence just like later MCU movies. (They did eventually make several, which I'll have to watch to get all the answers!)
 

Hymie

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I’m not really a fan of horror movies. I don’t think of The Shining as a horror movie. But I do think it’s a great movie. I suspect people who dislike The Shining or 2001 go into the films with preconceived notions as to what a haunted house movie or a space movie should be. That’s fine and those that dislike the movies aren’t wrong. But I’ve also noticed that there’s also a recent trend trying to discredit Kubrick seemingly based on more modern sensibilities. I don’t love everything Kubrick has done; not by a long shot. But these are two of my favorites so I felt compelled to defend them. Take that as you will.

And if you don’t like those movies you’ll likely want to stay far away from Tarkovsky.

Not enjoying the films doesn't mean I don't "get" them, I completely understand what Kubrick is going for in the films, but for me there's a disconnect between the intention/message and enjoyability factor. For me, Kubrick was great until 2001. With 2001 and all his subsequent films, he went for a style over substance style that wasn't very enjoyable to me. I do not deride him for his choices nor the films, but purely for the enjoyment I get from the films he made after Dr. Strangelove which just don't entertain me. They are proficiently made and technically magnificent, but they lack the entertainment factor I look for when dedicating myself to watch a film.

I enjoy films from all decades from the 1920s until today, and enjoy nearly every genre of cinema. I feel like discrediting films as simply being crticised from a "modern sensibility" is unfair, especially for films like 2001 or The Shining, both of which were given poor critical reviews and receptions upon release. They eventually found their audiences, but I think it's clear neither film was made with the intention of appealing to a mass audience (which rarely happens in studio films in this day and age, unfortunately).

For what it's worth, I don't really classify The Shining as a horror movie, rather as a character study of psychosis and home isolation can drive people insane. Likewise, 2001 is more about the history of man and his search for answers. In both cases the films succeed at their job, but neither is a satisfying experience for me as a viewer. I envy those that can enjoy these so called classics, though I'm perfectly fine with not liking the films as I am with you enjoying them.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Not enjoying the films doesn't mean I don't "get" them, I completely understand what Kubrick is going for in the films, but for me there's a disconnect between the intention/message and enjoyability factor. For me, Kubrick was great until 2001. With 2001 and all his subsequent films, he went for a style over substance style that wasn't very enjoyable to me. I do not deride him for his choices nor the films, but purely for the enjoyment I get from the films he made after Dr. Strangelove which just don't entertain me. They are proficiently made and technically magnificent, but they lack the entertainment factor I look for when dedicating myself to watch a film.

I enjoy films from all decades from the 1920s until today, and enjoy nearly every genre of cinema. I feel like discrediting films as simply being crticised from a "modern sensibility" is unfair, especially for films like 2001 or The Shining, both of which were given poor critical reviews and receptions upon release. They eventually found their audiences, but I think it's clear neither film was made with the intention of appealing to a mass audience (which rarely happens in studio films in this day and age, unfortunately).

For what it's worth, I don't really classify The Shining as a horror movie, rather as a character study of psychosis and home isolation can drive people insane. Likewise, 2001 is more about the history of man and his search for answers. In both cases the films succeed at their job, but neither is a satisfying experience for me as a viewer. I envy those that can enjoy these so called classics, though I'm perfectly fine with not liking the films as I am with you enjoying them.

I specifically said anyone who doesn’t enjoy these movies isn’t “wrong.” But it’s clear that the enjoyment is coming from the desire to be entertained in a more traditional sense. Which is exactly what you claim these movies fail to do. I would agree to a large extent. I don’t find 2001 a movie which I can put on and enjoy time and time again. But that’s not what the intent was. I enjoy 2001 for what it is and attempts (which we’ve seen on this site before) to streamline the movie to make it more of a thrill ride do, in my opinion, miss the point. Which is not to say that it can’t still be a worthy goal and a fun exercise. But it is a akin to editing Friday the 13th to be a Rom Com.

My point was merely that there a lot of Kubrick backlash out there lately, not just on this site. That is understandable, IMO, because for a long time Kubrick has been held up as almost the benchmark of filmmaking perfection, which I think is also over the top. I think the. Jupiter & Beyond part of 2001 hasn’t aged particularly well, for example. I don’t think 2001 is a perfect film, but when the criticism is aimed at intentional decisions without acknowledging that they are, in fact, intentional then I think your criticism is open to rebuttal. Too slow and deliberate is, by itself, not a valid criticism of 2001 in my opinion.
 

skyled

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Spotlight - 2015
Movie about the Boston Globe's research into Catholic priest child sex abuse in the Boston area. It's very well done and maintains strong pacing throughout. It spends almost the entire time following the reporters as they dig for evidence. It gives you real appreciation for reporters that do actual investigative journalism, like a police detective. It reminded me of some recent articles by Glenn Greenwald where he ridicules journalists during the Bush and Trump years for their so-called fact checking where some DOJ hack will leak a false story to the New York Times and they'll report on it, and then the same guy leaks it to the Washington Post and the Post is now able to "independently verify" the original NYT story. These guys from the Boston Globe didn't work like that, even when it seemed like all of Boston was against them digging any deeper.

Something I noticed, which isn't necessarily a complaint, is that very little time is spent examining the motivations of the victims or the abusers. After the kids are molested the first time, why did they keep going back? Was it blackmail, bribery, threats? Why are so many priests abusers? These questions aren't really explored in the movie, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, because it makes the audience want to explore on their own to find out for themselves. It's both frustrating to not be fed the answers, as if there are any easy answers, and invigorating because the movie actually makes you want to learn more.

Ghost World - 2001
Two best friends and social outcasts graduate high school and now must figure out what to do with the rest of their lives as they meet strange characters and slowly drift apart. I think this one and Lost in Translation are spiritually connected. They're both about feeling lost and alienated, they're both rather slow and meandering, and both are sporadically very funny. I especially liked the scenes in Enid's art class.

Wolf's Rain - 2003
Anime series about a pack of wolves in a post-apocalyptic/nuclear winter future. The wolves can change into humans and there's a mythology that says wolves will open the door to Paradise. The show is dragged out, and features 4(!) recap episodes in the middle of the series. Too many episodes are just the wolves wandering through some generic wasteland complaining that they're hungry. There's some interesting stuff in the backstory about Nobles who can use alchemy, but it's not really elaborated on. However, the soundtrack is by Yoko Kanno and it's fantastic. It's not really much like her work on Cowboy Bebop, more symphonic like in Macross Plus, and some acoustic stuff like certain tracks on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I'm always amazed at how her soundtracks are made up of full songs, even though only some 30 seconds of the song will actually be used in the show.
 

mnkykungfu

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I am a big fan of Yoko Kanno and you're right. Didn't realize she did Wolf's Rain, which I always got confused with Wolf Brigade.
 

TM2YC

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Army of the Dead (2021)
Despite this being incompetently directed, shockingly overlong, horribly shot, dumbly written and nonsensically plotted, Zack Snyder still somehow manages to make a moderately fun Zombie-Heist movie. Just switch your brain off and try to ignore the laughable political commentary and the basic fact that a Zombie "outbreak" which has been successfully and completely contained is not actually a threat any more and concentrate on the splatter gore madness. If you thought Snyder was bad at directing and writing, then you should see how bad he is as his own Cinematographer... and nice visuals were formerly his one saving grace. He's chosen to shoot the entire film with the shallowest depth of field imaginable. 95% of the film must be out of focus. Occasionally it works like a broken clock, when we share a character's POV, and the camera's point of focus naturally lines up with our own point of interest in the frame. But a lot of the time we are given an equal "two shot" of the actors and randomly one is in focus and the other is a blur because they are standing a couple of imperceptible inches apart. Or worse still we cut from a close-up of an actor in focus, to a different angle featuring the same actor blurred out, when that is where our eyes naturally go. It verges on headache inducing eye strain. Free from the nominally "family friendly" DC superhero universe he's been working in for the last decade, Snyder returns to his troubling dual obsession with writing "strong female characters" but needing to also have them be threatened with rape. Apparently a subplot about women being raped by zombies to make zombie babies was removed from the movie (the implication is still in the movie though). It's unclear if this was because Snyder had an attack of good taste, or Netflix overruled him. Tig Notaro was the definite comedy highlight (just as she was in the otherwise dreadful 'Star Trek: Discovery') and her green-screen insertion into the film in post-production was near seamless.

 

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Freaky (2020)

freaky.jpg


Perhaps only legal considerations stopped this from being named Freaky Friday the 13th, as that's when it's set. A meek high school girl (Kathryn Newton) is about to be murdered by a generic slasher-movie serial killer (Vince Vaughn), but, due to lightning and magic, they end up switching bodies. Comedy and scares! Sort of.

Once you've heard the premise, you can pretty much imagine the whole flick. Apart from the flurry of f-bombs and some practical gore effects, this could easily have been a PG-13; there's none of the transgressive sleaziness or weird/offbeat subtext that can sometimes make teen slasher flicks more interesting than their basic concepts would suggest. (There's a hint of #MeToo feminist payback towards the end, but it's pretty much entirely negated by the fact that it's not a woman wreaking vengeance, but instead a man who just happens to temporarily be in a female body.) As for the kills, they're bloody enough, but there's no sense of actual hurt or pain to any of them.

Kathryn Newton seems talented, but she's either playing a movie cliche of a teenage girl, or a slasher with no personality to speak of - disappointingly, there's just about zero exploration of how a middle-aged psycho man might embrace the extra life and sexual/murderous opportunities of the switch. Vaughn, however, is a lot of fun playing a teenage girl; for those who aren't particular fans of slasher movies, his performance is the only real reason to give this a spin.

Grade: C+. An acceptable $4 Redbox blind Blu-ray buy.
 

TM2YC

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Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
I watched the Theatrical Cut of 'Kingdom of Heaven' at the cinema when it came out and thought it was alright. Then I watched the 50-minute longer Restored/Director's Cut/Roadshow version when it came on DVD and fell in love with that version. I got a little obsessed with rewatching it and then back to the shorter cut as well, to see how much was cut and changed. So much so that I haven't really gone back to it since, not helped by poor availability of a good blu-ray release. After an upgrade to an imported US set I gave it a rewatch and it holds up very well. The CGI enhanced battles and vast panoramas look as good as anything today, helped by a lot of location shooting, in-camera tricks, practical stunts and extras. William Monahan's script is real Shakespearean poetry, full of memorable dialogue and interesting philosophical and political observations. Harry Gregson-Williams' score is gorgeous and even better in the "roadshow" version with an overture etc. The supporting cast is very strong including Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Sheen, Liam Neeson and Alexander Siddig. Edward Norton somehow delivers an unforgettable (but unrecognisable) performance despite having everything but his eyes behind a mask (even those are covered in makeup) and doing a voice unlike his normal one. Almost all the major characters are based on real people and real events. It's been "sexed up" of course but Monahan's script retains enough researched historical detail to make you fascinated with discovering more about this time and place. That's what a history drama should do. The only real problem is the star Orlando Bloom. He has to carry much of the movie but it's beyond him. He's a decent actor but didn't have the range in 2006 to do justice to a character this nuanced, operating in a political context as complex as this one. It feels like a case of "Okay Ridley you can have $130m to make your post-911 religious epic, as long as you cast the kid from 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in the lead". Despite that mperfection, I'd easily place 'Kingdom of Heaven' somewhere in my Ridley Scott top-5.


There is a History Buffs episode on it:

 

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Soul Boys of the Western World (2014)
I'd heard high praise for this Spandau Ballet documentary but my lack of interest in the band put me off until now. Even if you're in the same camp the skill with which the film is edited makes it worth a watch. Loads of band footage is combined with well chosen archive film to illustrate the places they grew up. Current interviews-to-camera with the band are thankfully never used, keeping things feeling "in the moment". The working class upbringing of the band is a strong theme in the film, which I wasn't expecting. It's perhaps a little over-structured and streamlined, in a rise, fall and rise again type way, which was detectable even to somebody who didn't know jack about what really happened.

 

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Sharpe's Rifles (1993)
The Sharpe TV movies were up there with Bond for me and not just because star Sean Bean played a 00 and Daniel Craig makes an early appearance. Re-watching this in the beautiful HD restoration, featuring panoramic shots of the 'Chosen Men' hiking through the mountains of Portugal and Ukraine, it also reminded me of similarly impressive wilderness footage from 'The Lord of the Rings' and not just because Sean Bean was in that too. What Sharpe lacks in scale and budget compared to bigger Hollywood war movies, it makes up for in gritty realism, there's no FX trickery, it's all in camera and on location. I'd forgotten how initially antagonistic the relationship was between Sharpe and his men (particularly the shear hate he shares with his future best friend Harper) and he's got a lot to learn about being a leader. It's a perfect "origin movie", showing how Sharpe acquires his rank, skills and humility and earns the respect and trust of his comrades. Bean is unfeasibly dashing and heroic as the protagonist but wow Brian Cox nearly steals the show as the intelligence officer Major Hogan. You can see how much fun Cox is having playing the outwardly jovial and charming but scheming Hogan. He's laugh-out-loud funny. That electric guitar score is amazing but the end credits lack the familiar John Tams rendition of the Napoleonic folk song 'Over the Hills & Far Away' which ends every other episode IIRC.

 

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Sharpe's Eagle (1993)
'Sharpe's Eagle'
doesn't have quite the tight narrative progression of 'Sharpe's Rifles' but it's got all the same fun ingredients. This story establishes Sharpe as a legend in his own lifetime. In many of the later movies the words "He's the Sharpe that took the eagle at Talavera" has many an arrogant upper-class officer quaking in fear. The amount of bloody injuries that Sharpe sustains in this story (beginning the episode on a shot of Harper treating Sharpe's wrecked knee with maggots) perhaps gets a bit ridiculous given the state of Napoleonic medicine. Brian Cox is still magnificent as Hogan, what a shame he didn't come back for any of the other films. 'Superman III's Gavan O'Herlihy plays an interesting and complex character, an effectively exiled American officer still loyal to the British crown. That funeral ending with the first outing for 'Over the Hills & Far Away' is beautiful. The song is guaranteed to be stuck in my head for days.

 
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The official BFI 30th best British film ever made...

Gregory's Girl (1980)
I've heard a few actors of a certain age saying how much they were in love with Clare Grogan in 'Gregory's Girl' so I was a bit surprised to discover that she's barely in it. It's mostly about John Gordon Sinclair's title character's stumbling attempts to woe his school's new superstar female footballer. 'Gregory's Girl' captures a moment where boys are first thinking "I know I like girls but I don't really know what to do about it". The story is told from the boys clueless perspective, with the girls being seen as assertive and confident. This contrast is most evident in Gregory's wise but much younger sister and his delightfully daft male PE teacher. The sweet comedic charm of the characters and tone are offset by the no-budget, on-location, documentary realism of it's look. It's not a total surprise to read that the Scottish accents were re-dubbed for the 1980 American theatrical version (like with the Yorkshire accents in 1969's 'Kes').

 

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Duck Soup (1933)
'Duck Soup'
is definitely one of the best Marx Brothers movies, one of my personal favourites and still one of the funniest movies ever made. However, it's lack of any real plot, or any romantic heroes to root for (who are there for the Brothers to help) makes it a lesser film than others for me. It's a brief 68-minutes of inspired, occasionally surreal chaos but they work best when their madness is directed somewhere. On the other hand there are no lame song and dance numbers that need skipped over. Groucho gets many of his best lines, delivered at such a rapid pace that it takes many re-watches to catch them all, as he says in the film; "You haven't stopped talking since I came here. You must've been vaccinated with a phonograph needle". Although 'Duck Soup' is a political satire springing from inter-war European dictatorships, much of what it has to say about politics and censorship still hold up; "If any form of pleasure is exhibited, Report to me and it will be prohibited. I'll put my foot down; So shall it be... This is the land of the free!". Is this the first political satire feature film? My young nephews happened to watch the sequence with Harpo and Chico deliberately antagonising a fellow street vendor and they got the giggles. It always amazes me how the humour of these movies (the sight gags anyway) still work for kids 90-years later. The great HD transfer shows up little extra bits of facial humour I'd missed on first 40 or 50 viewings.

 
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