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A few reviews

Moe_Syzlak

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I admit I really love Ocean’s Eleven. I can’t stand any of the sequels. The female version (8?) was better than any of the direct sequels. It’s such a perfect ensemble piece. Cheadle is the weak spot as you note. I kept waiting for him to reveal at some point that he isn’t really British and for the rest of them to be like “yeah we know.” The symphonic Clair de Lune (a composition usually played as a piano piece) is so perfect for the fountains and the ending of the heist proper. It’s far from a perfect movie but I do love it.
 

unfair

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I can’t stand any of the sequels. The female version (8?) was better than any of the direct sequels.

Eh, I thought the direct sequels were somewhat fun while Ocean's 8 seemed to be an emotionless cash grab with the name of a popular franchise it had no relation to pasted on the cover. Seemed like they were hoping between the name and the cast they could cash in on the audience, sort of like a series reboot cashing in on the credibility of the original that it's completely unrelated to. As gender-flip movie pitches go that one should have been a home run with a cast of that caliber, and instead it was devoid of any sort of emotion or investment in the plot or characters.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Eh, I thought the direct sequels were somewhat fun while Ocean's 8 seemed to be an emotionless cash grab with the name of a popular franchise it had no relation to pasted on the cover. Seemed like they were hoping between the name and the cast they could cash in on the audience, sort of like a series reboot cashing in on the credibility of the original that it's completely unrelated to. As gender-flip movie pitches go that one should have been a home run with a cast of that caliber, and instead it was devoid of any sort of emotion or investment in the plot or characters.
And yet was still better than the direct sequels for me. YMMV.
 

TM2YC

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I admit I really love Ocean’s Eleven. I can’t stand any of the sequels. The female version (8?) was better than any of the direct sequels. It’s such a perfect ensemble piece.

I was only really interested in the first three just because it's Soderbergh but I might give that a go too.

Ocean's Twelve (2004)
'Ocean's Twelve'
has been described as one of the worst sequels ever, which it isn't but it's not great either. It feels like a classic case of shooting with an unfinished script and expecting the mere presence of your all-star cast and talented director to magically fix everything. If you don't know what you're doing, or where your going, just stuff more stuff into the movie and let your Hollywood stars improv dialogue. It's like one of those difficult albums where the band have spent all their time touring and going to celebrity parties, so now they don't know how to write about normal life any more. Steven Soderbergh amuses himself (if nobody else) with meta jokes, such as the character played by Matt Damon (who was now a much bigger star thanks to two Jason Bourne blockbusters since the first movie) asking for a bigger role in the next heist. The thieves bicker about their gang actually being referred to as "Ocean's 11", movie genre cliches are pointed out in the dialogue and you know everybody thought having Don Cheadle coach Julia Roberts about doing a convincing accent was just the funniest thing ever. Cheadle's cockney accent doesn't seem quite as stunningly bad this time and he's at least using slang correctly. All that being said, the scenes featuring Bruce Willis as himself and Julia Roberts' character impersonating the "real" Julia Roberts were a lot of fun. The smugness that was mostly contained to just Brad Pitt in the first adventure infects most of the cast here. However, I can't deny I wasn't entertained for 2-hours.

 

Moe_Syzlak

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^^^ To clarify, I don’t find any of them particularly good, but the reboot was at least trying ti be something other than excuse for a bunch of famous friends to get together and say “look how much fun we have being famous!”
 

Masirimso17

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I also saw Ocean's Eleven very recently, fairly enjoyed it. Sad to hear about the sequels, I had no idea they were poorly received, maybe I coulda enjoyed them more going in blind (which I still want to do, as much as possible). Also interested in Ocean's Eight.
 

TM2YC

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Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
This is the 'The Last Crusade' of this trilogy, the one after they tried something different that not everybody liked, so they recreate the ingredients of the first movie but are content to coast a bit on our affection for the characters. 'Ocean's Thirteen' is back in Las Vegas for another casino heist and has some proper emotional stakes to get invested in. Elliott Gould on his death bed and Al Pacino as the man who put him there, give us and the team something to work for and against. It's basically the Lonnegan/Luther impetuous from 'The Sting', so we don't need to care that the team have a financial victory, as they're out for a moral one. Don Cheadle's cockney accent is still pretty dire but now he's moved on to inventing British slang terms, because presumably he thought the American audience wouldn't know the difference. I'm almost tempted to say 13 equals 11, it's an action-heist-comedy blast that made me smile all the way through. It's bigger and brighter but it hasn't got quite the same semi-believable atmosphere, sexiness and panache.

 

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The Time Out 88th best British film ever made...

This Is England (2006)
I've meant to watch this first film in the 'This is England' series for ages but every time I thought about it, Shane Meadows added another few hours on to the story. It's every bit as good as it's reputation. The film looks so authentically like footage from the 80s, it's almost difficult to believe it was shot in 2005 and not a period piece. I'm too young to remember the UK "skinhead" scene being anything other that notoriously racist. The film begins just before that with the kind-hearted Woody bringing lonely young boy Shaun into his multi-ethnic, multi-gender, apolitical, skinhead gang, which is then taken over by the scary, racist Combo. Stephen Graham as Combo is so intense, it's not just that he's unpredictably violent, it's that you see glimpses of how much pain and suffering is beneath the surface. His final explosion of jealous, violent rage is brought on by somebody simply telling him about their parents having loved them. From good to bad, Meadows looks at all the characters with empathy. 'This Is England' is also extremely funny and the jukebox Ska soundtrack is sensational.


I was kinda assuming the film would feature 'This is England' by The Clash somewhere on the soundtrack (it doesn't), as it's from the right period, covers similar subject matters and is the last great Clash track. This incredible fanedited YouTube video could be a montage from the film:




The BFI 84th best British film ever made...

Educating Rita (1983)
This sometimes feels like a sort of stealth remake of 'A Star is Born', with Michael Caine as the bitter, self-destructive, borderline-alcoholic, older talent, who starts to rediscover his love for his art (in this case poetry/literature), though mentoring the younger, enthusiastic and out spoken Rita (Julie Walters). The stuff about Rita's working class background being an almost insurmountable barrier to her seeking higher education, seems less relevant today. I'm not saying class isn't a thing any more, but people in the film react as if Rita has said she wants to lead an expedition to Mars, rather than just wanting to read a few books. Caine and Walters ring every drop of laughter, sadness and joy out of the script. I was not expecting the strident Prog synth score, for a comedy drama, it's different but it works very well.


A great track from the score:

 

Gaith

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For my money the best Sherlock film and a terrific pair of actors in the leads.

Again, I liked it, but the best Holmes film? I'm no Holmes film scholar, but yikes. Is, say, Murder by Decree, starrting Christopher Plummer as Holmes and James Mason as Watson, no good?? 😛


Most Dangerous Game (2020)

waltz.webp


This contemporary spin on Richard Connell's famous short story was originally released in 15 short episodes on Quibi, but can now be watched on Amazon Prime as a 127-minute film. So, two questions: one, is it any good, and two, does it feel like a movie?

Happily, the answer to both questions is a definite yes. The flick stars Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz and its modern-day Detroit setting is a welcome change of scenery from just about everything taking place in NYC, LA, or maybe Chicago. The plot is pretty well thought out: the prey must stay within Detroit's city limits, with a cell phone that gives hunters hourly pings to their location, guns are not permitted, nor is going asking for police assistance, and they start out without their own phone or cash. In exchange, they get increasing bank deposits every hour, and, if they survive 24 hours, the game ends, and they get a grand prize. Hemsworth accepts the insane offer, of course, but only because he's got inoperable brain cancer, and a family to provide for.

Liam Hemsworth still doesn't have his Asgardian brother's charisma, but he's entirely satisfactory in this straightforward, All-American role, with a pretty solid accent to match. Waltz is exactly what you want from the game master role; his turn here is a better Bond villain performance than he was permitted to give in both his actual Bond films. The supporting cast is solid, and the production, despite being commissioned for mobile phone viewing, is solid. This is pulp action done right: I liked it better than the first John Wick (which had a lame third act) or Wrath of Man (which also got less interesting as it went along). Well worth a watch.

Grade: B+



Lightyear (2022)

image.jpg


I'm not much interested in stories about kids, non-biological objects such as toys or cars, or lame afterlife/pre-life fables. As a result, Lightyear was the first Pixar movie I've bothered to watch since Toy Story 3, and the last time I really enjoyed one of their flicks was 2008's Wall-E (which, despite being mainly about non-biological robots, is very good.) So, the Question of the Year in Pixar becomes: how the Zurg do you eff up a Buzz Lightyear movie?! Well...

1) Setting it on a single, uninteresting planet.
2) Featuring zero sentient aliens, despite animation making that easier to do than in live action.
3) Giving your movie the same inciting incident as Alien: Covenant, only without the English-language transmission.
4) Making your protagonist an unlikable prick from the outset, who scarcely improves.
5) Stretching the first act to fully half an hour in lenth.
5) Not making your antagonist Zurg a hissable, theatrical baddie.
6) Introducing a philosophical third-act plot twist that redefines the whole movie, but diminishes the fun quotient even further.

All in all, Lightyear is a big ol' mess, and a big ol' fail. That said, it is stunning to look at, even while the visuals themselves are mostly drab and unfamiliar. Maybe it'd be worth putting in on a language you don't know, or even muting it altogether and spinning your favorite psychedelic/space-age playlist, and appreciating the visuals alone.

Grade: C
 

TM2YC

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Is, say, Murder by Decree, starrting Christopher Plummer as Holmes and James Mason as Watson, no good?? 😛

The Hammer Baskerville's is a close contender but I've not seen Murder by Decree yet.



The Time Out 48th best British film ever made...

Hunger (2008)
I wouldn't describe Steve McQueen's 'Hunger' as an enjoyable watch but it's powerfully acted and directed. The structure is odd, beginning by exclusively following two fictional (I think) prisoners at the Maze, then about a quarter way in, it switches over entirely to depicting Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Bobby Sands. If you don't go in already knowing who Sands was and the political and cultural context in which he undertook his hunger strike, I think this film might leave you a bit lost. It's mostly focused on depicting brutality and the physical act of voluntary starvation and less on the political reasons for doing so.

 

TM2YC

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Black Sea (2014)
I love the submarine thriller subgenre because the situation usually magnifies the action with it's inherent claustrophobia and nose-to-nose interpersonal conflict. Kevin Macdonald's 'Black Sea' has all that in spades and a great cast of actors. It's a mix of 'The Wages of Fear' and 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'. The desperation of this ragged band of sailors is what drives them on and holds them back. The characterisation of everyone below Jude Law was a little lacking and Scoot McNairy has the thankless task of being the guy who repeatedly asks "Why are you doing that?", "What is that for?" etc. I also struggled with sympathising with some of the crew, as they are immediately being awful as soon as we meet them, instead of us being given a chance to like them first, before the paranoia and greed starts affecting them. There was bit towards the end, after we learn the dark truth about the mission, where I began really rooting for them to win, it would've been better to feel that earlier on.

 

TM2YC

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The Time Out 92nd best British film ever made...

Dead Man's Shoes (2004)
Considering how much I liked 'Dead Man's Shoes' back in 2004, I don't know why it's taken me so long to catch up with the rest of Shane Meadows' filmography. Paddy Considine is so threatening as Richard, the film's anti-hero on a "roaring rampage of revenge" in rural Derbyshire. It's clever the way Meadows first has us sympathise with him, then start to feel empathy for the fairly awful men he's out to kill, even as we find out more about their cruel deeds. You feel that nobody, whatever their crimes, deserves this and not this pathetic group of losers. There is a lot of humour too, the gang of dealers cruising to some gangsta rap in a little green 2CV really made me laugh. I'd forgotten that it was young Toby Kebbell playing Anthony, he's so believable, he should go back to doing more films like this and less Hollywood stuff. Also I didn't remember the religious underpinning and that beneath the realistic, lo-fi, low-budget, documentary video aesthetic, this is very much a Clint Eastwood-style Western plot, transposed to grey Midlands England... a companion piece to 'Straw Dogs' perhaps.




Northern Soul (2004)

A short Shane Meadows "mockumentary" included on the 'Dead Man's Shoes' DVD. Possibly a muck about that they had in-between making the longer film? I'm not sure that Toby Kebbell putting on a silly voice to play a weakling wannabee wrestler is as funny as they think it is but it's amusing enough. It's not like Rocky where you want him to win, because that's never going to happen for this guy, you just want him to give up and be okay.

northern-soul-2004998094-ci.jpg
 

TM2YC

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Erin Brockovich (2000)
For 'Erin Brockovich', Steven Soderbergh seems to contain some of his more stylish impulses and simply goes for making a really well crafted, well structured, well acted, legal drama. Julia Roberts is good in the title role but not so good that I couldn't imagine a hundred other actors doing it just as well. Because my brain works like that, when it gets mentioned that Brockovich and Masry's law firm will take 40% of the settlement and the number of plaintiffs keeps climbing to around 600, I couldn't help but keep reaching for my calculator to breakdown the figures, the percentages and potential shares. The film mentions the final total settlement of $333M but doesn't mention that 40% of that is $133M, which I'd already worked out, so in the big happy end scene when Erin gets a cheque for $2.5M from her firm, after the film portrays her doing about 950% of the work towards the victory, it seemed like a low number to me and an unintentional downer on the end. Of course $2.5M isn't to be sniffed at though!

 

DigModiFicaTion

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I was only really interested in the first three just because it's Soderbergh but I might give that a go too.

Ocean's Twelve (2004)
'Ocean's Twelve'
has been described as one of the worst sequels ever, which it isn't but it's not great either. It feels like a classic case of shooting with an unfinished script and expecting the mere presence of your all-star cast and talented director to magically fix everything. If you don't know what you're doing, or where your going, just stuff more stuff into the movie and let your Hollywood stars improv dialogue. It's like one of those difficult albums where the band have spent all their time touring and going to celebrity parties, so now they don't know how to write about normal life any more. Steven Soderbergh amuses himself (if nobody else) with meta jokes, such as the character played by Matt Damon (who was now a much bigger star thanks to two Jason Bourne blockbusters since the first movie) asking for a bigger role in the next heist. The thieves bicker about their gang actually being referred to as "Ocean's 11", movie genre cliches are pointed out in the dialogue and you know everybody thought having Don Cheadle coach Julia Roberts about doing a convincing accent was just the funniest thing ever. Cheadle's cockney accent doesn't seem quite as stunningly bad this time and he's at least using slang correctly. All that being said, the scenes featuring Bruce Willis as himself and Julia Roberts' character impersonating the "real" Julia Roberts were a lot of fun. The smugness that was mostly contained to just Brad Pitt in the first adventure infects most of the cast here. However, I can't deny I wasn't entertained for 2-hours.

Twelve was such a let down for me. I'd describe it as an inside self indulgent joke. I loved 11 and enjoyed 13. I don't know if I truly "fixed" 12 with the edit I made, but it at least is something that is enjoyable to me now. It does excise Bruce Willis' character, but retains Julia Roberts as herself. I too thought that bit was funny.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Twelve was such a let down for me. I'd describe it as an inside self indulgent joke. I loved 11 and enjoyed 13. I don't know if I truly "fixed" 12 with the edit I made, but it at least is something that is enjoyable to me now. It does excise Bruce Willis' character, but retains Julia Roberts as herself. I too thought that bit was funny.
The Julia Robert’s stuff was the bridge too far for me in the self-indulgent, meta, look-how-much-fun-us-wealthy, good-looking-actors-are-having-making-these-movies aspects of the movie.
 

TM2YC

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The Time Out 75th best British film ever made...

A Room for Romeo Brass (1999)
Shane Meadows'
3rd film is good but it feels like a less polished draft of the kind of thing he does even better in later works like 'This Is England' and 'Somers Town'. It's surprisingly unusual for a film not to suggest how you should feel, to not hint where it's going, or give you easy answers by the end. Paddy Considine's performance as oddball Morell, weaves uncomfortably between Napoleon Dynamite and Norman Bates. While Romeo's violent, estranged father, eventually resolves the plot and brings the family together using violence. Plus you've got Meadows' trademark off-beat humour, so the film keeps you on your toes.

 

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High Life (2018)
Robert Pattinson and his crew of fellow prisoners are on a one-way interstellar mission to be sent into a black hole. It sounds interesting, but it ends up being kind of like a tedious mashup of Sunshine (2007) and 2001 A Space Odyssey without any of their good aspects. Sets are limited, pacing is a crawl, characters are rather one-note. A seriously wasted opportunity.

The Love Witch (2016)
A modern-retro style cheesy horror romance (?) that is dragged down by an excessive run time. A witch arrives in town after her husband leaves her and he mysteriously dies. She's an expert at love magic and sex magic, and there is frequent nudity (but it's rarely sexy) as she and her fellow witches and wizards perform ceremonies and initiations. The costumes and sets are deliberate throw backs and it looks great, but this should have been 80-90 minutes rather than 120. Some of the dialogue is great, especially the policeman/love interest Griff, and some of the acting is (probably) bad on purpose for comedic affect and I really liked that aspect, but it does drag on too long.

The Batman (2022)
Robert Pattinson is the Batman and he's pretty good, but I was less impressed by his mopey Bruce Wayne. This movie looks great and most aspects are very good, but wow it's long and it feels long. I was already checking the time left before the 40 minute mark. Sometimes they play up the "world's greatest detective" aspect of Batman, but sometimes he feels like an idiot. Batman and Gordon struggling with the Spanish, and Batman standing right in front of the guy with the bomb on his neck when it goes off. The police carrying the knocked out batman all the way back to the station without ever unmasking him, bulletproof batman (just don't shoot him in the face). There's too much realism here for such stupidity. The big explosive finale has been criticized already, and I agree, but I'd also like to point out how silly it is that almost all of the villain wannabes have bolt action hunting rifles with, I think, just one AR-style rifle to be seen. I guess this can't be used as the typical Hollywood "ban scary black rifles" though. Catwoman is pretty cool and sassy, and I think Zoe Kravitz looks great (I have an unhealthy love of girls with pixie cuts), but one line about White Privilege notably stuck out to me as obnoxiously forced into the script.

Many people have mentioned the similarities to Fincher's Seven, but I don't see many people mentioning the similarities to Zodiac (although the director has admitted the strong influence). I felt this worked really well and liked the exposed corruption. It was much better and more realistic motivation for a villain in a more grounded world than the typical over-the-top take over the world evil plot. Maybe they could have also thrown in a bit of Natural Born Killers about the Riddler's narcissism and need to be seen and become famous for his actions?

Burst City (1982)
A wild and crazy anarchistic punk movie from Japan about punk bands in a post-apocalyptic slum world vs. the Yakuza and their Battle Police enforcers. It's loud, energetic, extremely gritty, but also meandering and overly long with very little plot. Rival punk bands (played by real life punk bands including The Rockers, The Roosters, and The Stalin) drink, play wild shows, drag race, and get in fights. Meanwhile, a gang of crazed squatters take jobs from the Yakuza as construction workers to build a nuclear power plant (or something). Things come to a wild end when one of the squatters realizes that the head of the Yakuza family killed his brother and instigates a revolt against the Yakuza. At the same time, the rival punk bands are playing dueling shows when the Battle Police arrive to tear down the slum. A massive riot follows.

The film is crazy, using wild filming techniques and extremely grainy 16mm film. When there's a riot or a crazy show, the camera is right there in the middle of the action. I don't know how the cameras weren't getting smashed or knocked to the ground. The first 20 minutes is almost like a strange musical. It made me think of Streets of Fire as directed and edited by the guy that did Tetsuo the Iron Man. The punk costumes are great and the sets are frequently old abandoned factories and graffitied shanty towns. It looks and feels real, even though it's on a minimal budget. A scene that stuck out to me was the band walking in the hallway backstage to the stage trampling on old Beatles posters lying on the floor.

The problem is the lack of plot or forward momentum. It's almost more like a documentary. The ending riot is crazy, but it goes on for 30 or so minutes and could have easily been cut down. Some scenes seem to happen without any follow up or resolution. In one scene, the singer for the punk band gets in a fight with a cop and it seems like he gets shot with a shotgun, but a few minutes later it's as if it never happened.
 

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The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
There is more than a hint of 'Dracula' to the plotting of this above average Hammer Horror zombie film. André Morell plays the Van Helsing-alike doctor character with authority and gravitas, he's 50% of why the movie is entertaining to watch. These are still your old fashioned "because voodoo" zombies but they act and look a lot closer to the trademark 1968 Romero-zombies we know today, than earlier films I've seen. The HD transfer on Amazon Prime is sharp and colourful but I really questioned whether some of the grade was correct, the night scenes were just day-for-day, apart from some owls hooting on the soundtrack.

 

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The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)
For me, half the fun of watching this low-budget 70s Italian zombie film set in the North of England, was spotting which bits were, or weren't shot there. It mostly looked pretty authentic but there was one house location with fish-scale roof tiles, cypress trees and window shutters, with biscotti being served with black coffee that was definitely an Italian location. Also, many have noted that although the opening titles were filmed in Manchester and a morgue does feature towards the end, the title is highly misleading (to be fair, that's not the original Italian name). A zombie outbreak caused by a sonic pest control ray, only occurs when our blameless hero and heroine are about and never when the police are on the scene (which starts to get a bit ridiculous). As a result, they are the prime suspects for mass murder in the eyes of the local irrational right-wing Police sergeant, who goes around angrily ranting about homosexuals and long-hairs. There is a decent amount of splatter gore and some neat practical FX. Giuliano Sorgini's soundtrack is pretty cool, like a lot of Italian movies of the period. By the way, I noticed the end credits scroll includes "Vicente Vega as Dr. Duffield". I wonder if Tarantino got the name from this guy?


 
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