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A few reviews

Duragizer

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I still haven't seen a single Godfather film in whole. Got a DVD boxset lying around, so I should probably get on the ball already.
 

TM2YC

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The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)
One of the latter Technicolor films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger ('The Archers'), once again restored in blazing 4K thanks to Martin Scorsese. It's a pretty faithful adaptation of Offenbach's opera, with the medium of film allowing the best Ballet dancers, to be dubbed with the best Opera singers. The spectacular colour production design, editing tricks and imaginative studio-based filming was something I could admire but not fully enjoy because I just don't get Ballet. A sort of live-action equivalent to Disney's 'Fantasia'.

It was the late George A. Romero's favourite film and this video has him discussing it with great enthusiasm:


Bitter Lake (2015)
Another BBC essay by British Documentary maker Adam Curtis. The subject this time is primarily the sad history of Afghanistan and the way countries like the UK, the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia have used it as a sandbox to play out proxy wars and conduct economic experiments. The long and damaging military alliances between Saudi Arabia and the US/UK are also explored. Curtis delivers less voice-over narration than usual and instead relies on increasingly abstract footage to make his points, from comedies like 'Carry on up the Khyber', to Sci-Fi like Andrei Tarkovsky's 'Solaris'. Much of the factual news footage is picked to demonstrate the almost comic cultural disconnect between the Afghans and the various interlopers.

'Bitter Lake' is on YouTube but it occasionally contains footage of killings and torture, so be warned:

 

TM2YC

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School for Scoundrels (1960)
Henry Palfrey is the epitome of the nice guy who finishes last, the first half of the film showing us the various indignities he experiences because he's overly polite and deferential to others. So he attends a very odd University where men are taught nefarious ploys to get one-up on the other guy (or to get the other guy one-down on you). The 2nd half then revisits all the earlier scenes and we can cheer as Palfrey puts everybody in their place. I was beginning to think that the parts where Palfrey is being taught to trick women were in danger of getting creepy but ultimately he does decide that it's wrong. 'School for Scoundrels' is a total joy and one I'll be re-watching again.


The official BFI 99th Best British film ever made...

Carry On Up The Khyber (1968)
This is the the first time I've ever watched a whole 'Carry On' Film, so I should probably have my UK passport revoked or something. Opinion seems to be that I've started with the best one, a rather brilliant satire of British Colonial attitudes, set in 19th Century India (Now Pakistan). Nearly every character or place is a pun or double-entendre and much fun is had by everybody referring to sex as "Tiffin" and telling a holy man to "Fakir off!".

 

bionicbob

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DEATH WISH (1974)   http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyZgZ9cN4kQ[/video]

V.S. 

DEATH WISH (2018)  http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzILu6yyA20[/video]

Most critic reviews of 2018's remake were pretty scathing, so I went in expecting the worst.  But it was actually a decent, by the numbers, action B-Movie.   My wife certainly enjoyed it.  But is it a worthy remake?  Nope.  Not even close.

As a product of the talents writer Joe Carnahan and director Eli Roth, I was flabbergasted at how mainstream and formulaic this movie was, lacking any of the nuance or subversion of the original.  This movie plays it safe from beginning to end and has it priorities in all the wrong places.  It is more focused into turning Willis character back into an 80s badass action hero than exploring the actual horror that drives him.

In the 1974 original, the assault on Bronson's family is shown.  It is exploitive, ugly, brutal and disturbing.  It lingers and haunts the remainder of the story, adding a subtext to every action and motive.  As a viewer, it makes you uncomfortable and angry, and makes you sympathetic with Bronson's decent.  But in the remake, they cut away from the assault as though this was a 1980s network tv movie going to commercial and the aftermath is so bland,  it lacks any true impact on the viewer.

In terms of performance, we get some brief glimmers of the Willis of we knew and loved from the 90s, but these are rare and for the most part he is very wooden and seems to be on auto pilot.  Bronson, on the other hand, is an actor of limited range, but what he does he does well.  And in this movie, you can feel his uncomfortableness as he shows a more vulnerable side to himself and this in turn makes the audience uncomfortable, which only adds to the power of the story.

Additionally, in the original, Bronson never learns who attacked his family.  As in real life, he and the audience never achieves any closure. But the remake is not brave enough to go this route.  It follows typical action movie protocol as Willis discovers his family's attackers and hunts them down one by one, even throwing in some terrible 80s style one liners.

The only thing fresh the 2018 remake brings is the social media element but it almost feels at odds with the rest of the movie rather than supporting it.  The remake moves the action from New York to Chicago, but it all looks too slick and polished rather than the crime war zone it is suppose to be.  In the original, you can feel and taste the fear the citizens of New York live in, while in the remake it just seems like background noise.

The remake attempts to end on the same iconic moment... the finger gun point... but it fails utterly since the original does not seem to understand the intent, or at the very least, failed to show/build to this moment.  In the original, you begin to realize that Bronson's character is no longer killing badguys for revenge or justice or to protect the innocent.... he is doing it because he enjoys it!  He has in many respects become the monster he wants to destroy.  But there is none of this darkness in the remake.

Death Wish 2018 -- a safe, unoriginal, revenge movie  -- 6/10

Death Wish 1974 -- exploitive, unnerving, uncompromising -- 8/10

:D
 

thecuddlyninja

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The African Queen (1951)

What a wonderfully entertaining film. I'm ashamed to say that I had never seen this film before but @"TM2YC"  reviewed it recently and inspired me to remedy that. It is gorgeously shot and a fun two-hander. I enjoyed the music but the cinematography was to die for. Hepburn's dedication goes from annoying to admirable pretty quickly. The film takes Bogart's edge off, which is different. At the end of the day, it's a good time to watch actors this great play off each other, which is pretty much all that this movie is. I mean that in a good way; the chemistry is riveting.
 

thecuddlyninja

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I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore (2017)

I technically watched this before but I was drunk and didn't remember it at all, so it basically doesn't count. All I remember thinking was that it felt like Jeremy Saulnier, which is so reductive that you can find it in pretty much every review of the film. However, it's also accurate. It's also not an insult as I enjoy Jeremy Saulnier's movies a lot and they were all crafted with Macon Blair so it makes sense that the two would have similar sensibilities and style. However, the key difference as far as I could tell was Macon Blair has a much funnier bend to his gruesome, sporadic violence. Blair writes more jokes here, not comedy borne out of what's physically happening but just humor in general. It serves to alleviate the tension quite well. I appreciate the style a lot, and it was cast perfectly to this end. That being said, while this was good, it never hit the heights of Blue Ruin or Green Room, for me. I cared deeply about the main characters, but the plot seemed to be a thing that they fell into in various ways (rather than as a consequence of actions). Also, the messaging was clearly articulated, but in the end I didn't get more out of it than "people are assholes and life is random."
 

thecuddlyninja

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The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

Retroactively, this is my favorite show of 2018. I went into it expecting some interesting horror elements (I've seen a couple of Mike Flanagan's movies) and that's about it. I was blown away by what this really is: a beautifully-edited masterpiece about trauma and family. The plot centers around a suicide, but we get all the reactions to death. One sibling is furious at the victim for her selfishness, another is unwilling to confront what actually ailed the victim, one is too numb to feel any of those things and one fights the urge to turn to destructive coping mechanisms. It felt so real, and unlike anything I have seen in quite some time. I never cared about getting to the bottom of what was going on with the house, you only want to know what happened because the emotional pathos drives the characters still. I spent most of the last two episodes crying. Oh, and for me this show is pretty much the textbook definition of editing in service of the story. There aren't too many "flashy" cuts, though there are some, but damn if every cut wasn't exactly where it needed to be. There are stretches of the show where I felt like I couldn't breathe, the editing and rhythms brought me up and down from the edge perfectly. The camera work is similar. The flashiest episode is the one with all the long shots but they are not there to delight in technical wizardry, they tell the story best. A microcosm for all the good decisions this show makes in my book.

"You guys go on without me."
"How could we?"
 

thecuddlyninja

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Green Book (2018)

An uneven but overall very solid movie. There are definitely some strange parts (Don Shirley has never heard Little Richard before? The homosexuality being no issue/never discussed again? Dr. Shirley dresses like an emperor in his spare time? Tony Lip turns down more money to stay with this job even though he's barely started becoming a better person?) but there's a lot of good here. Viggo and Ali are just dynamite, and they make this movie very entertaining throughout. Viggo is going BROAD in all caps and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My biggest gripe is that I would have been more interested in a movie about Don Shirley struggling with the fact that he is not accepted by white or black people, or rich or poor, and is truly a man on an island emotionally. My heart broke for him. However, this movie doesn't really dwell on any of that after bringing it up because it's much more focused on how this is affecting Tony Lip. The comparison to Crash is apt, as in "this is a movie about racism from the lens and perspective of the white character, designed to make the viewer feel better about moving past racism rather than confronting it" however please everybody stop comparing the two because Crash is a bad movie. This is a pretty damn good movie, just from a limited/less interesting perspective. As far as the veracity of the plot, I don't know, man. It's a movie. The Shirley family was really pissed and insisted none of it happened and they were just employee/employer. Then audio came out of Shirley saying "we were more than just employee/employer." So, at the end of the day, I don't know and it doesn't have much to do with the film IMO. It's a very straightforward, old-fashioned movie but done quite well for me.
 

TM2YC

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thecuddlyninja said:
Green Book (2018)

Dr. Shirley dresses like an emperor in his spare time?

To be fair, there is a photo in the end credits of the real guy dressed just like that.




London (1994)
Noted Shakespearean thesp Paul Scofield delivers a continuous narration chronicling various "expeditions" exploring the streets, buildings, history and current state of London (imagined and Directed by Patrick Keiller). It's framed as the diary of an unnamed character, recounting the musings and witticisms of his friend (and former lover) "Robinson". A sort of 'Withnail & I' relationship, if 'I' was Alan Bennett, or Viv Stanshall. The specific problems of 1992 Britain, are worryingly similar to that of 2019 Britain. Long static shots of London life, accompanied by a constructed dreamlike soundscape, often create ironic contrasts with the voice-over. Almost an art-installation, but closest to the essay-film Genre and unlike anything I've seen before but I totally loved it. Patrick Keiller's 1997 sequel 'Robinson in Space' is going straight on my watch list for sure.


 

thecuddlyninja

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TM2YC said:
thecuddlyninja said:
Green Book (2018)

Dr. Shirley dresses like an emperor in his spare time?

To be fair, there is a photo in the end credits of the real guy dressed just like that.

Yeah, that's true. In the film, it doesn't do anything. I guess it drives the divide between the two home, but it's very clear from their conversation/speech already. 

If it's part of Dr. Shirley trying to be more comfortable in his own skin, I wish it would have been explored more, but alas. It was a really cool robe, that's for sure.
 

bionicbob

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TM2YC said:
Leaving Neverland (2019)
A 3-4-hour Channel 4/HBO Documentary presenting the testimony of two men claiming they were abused by Michael Jackson as children. While nobody disputes that Jackson slept in the same bed as these two boys over several years and brought them along in his touring entourage, no hard evidence exists that it went further than that. The film just lets the two men (both now figures in the entertainment industry) unpack their feelings to camera and also interviews their immediate family members. It's up to the viewer to believe them, or not but for myself, I was left in absolutely no doubt that they were speaking the truth. I just can't believe that all the people interviewed would be able to make up this much pain and life-destroying shame. They'd all have to be the greatest actors in the history of the world.

If in the recent #metoo past you've probably heard/read people make comments like "Why now? Seems suspicious?", or "Why would they wait all these years to make these allegations?", or "Why would the accuser wait until they are dead?", or "Why did they wait until the statute of limitations had expired?" then this film will explain in abundance the soul-crushing reasons why victims of abuse would be driven to do exactly that. Apparently the estate of Jackson are currently suing the Documentary makers for $100m, not because of the allegations but based on an obscure non-defamation contract clause relating to an old MJ concert film which they also produced. I leave it up to you to decide if the timing of the lawsuit is purely coincidental, or for intimidation purposes.

There is also a really disturbing coda showing the sickening vitriol directed at the victims from people on the internet. It's scary how disconnected the internet can make people feel from the pain of their fellow human beings. Luckily I don't own any Michael Jackson music (unless that old cassette tape I had of 'Dangerous' is still in a box in the garage somewhere?) so I don't have to ponder whether to burn it or not.


^ This youtube trailer has been down-voted and the comments section is predictably filled with angry people defending Jackson, or more accurately attacking his two victims.

Watched with my daughter.
As a parent, it left me feeling sick.
And angry.
And disturbed.
And sad.  So very, very sad.

As @"TM2YC" said, nobody is that good of an actor.  

I do not think I will ever listen to a Michael Jackson song again.
 

TM2YC

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Dead of Night (1945)
'Dead of Night' is one of the spookiest and most gripping Horror movies I've yet seen, not what I would've expected from Ealing Studios in 1945. A framing device where a group of strangers recount unsettling tales from their past across a fading evening is almost seamlessly integrated into one narrative about waking-nightmares. The kind of things that give you goosebumps, that may be supernatural, or may have a rational explanation. The most famous episode features Sir Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist who is either dangerously insane, or really has a creepy living dummy possessed by evil. I was less keen on the comedy episode, which ostensibly pits the two sport-obsessed Englishmen from Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes' against each other in a golf-game to the death... and beyond. The finale where all the stories mix together into one nightmare sequence is brilliantly realised.

 

TM2YC

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A Better Tomorrow II (1987)
The first act is lacking in top-level Hong Kong action but once Chow Yun-fat turns up (as the convenient twin brother of his dead character from the first film :D) the action begins and builds towards a hundred-man gun-battle finale that fills every inch of the screen with exploding grenades, shattering scenery, flying bullets and blood squibs spraying across every surface (It's really something to witness!). A strain of wacky humour is introduced which was not present in the first film but I loved the scene where Chow is ranting on about rice to a Mafia hit-man. I loved the way him donning his trademark trench-coat and cool Alain Delon sunglasses was shot like a super hero putting on his cape and cowl. This definitely has more troughs than the tightly constructed first film but it also has more insane heights too.


Reservoir Dogs much? ;)

32523695157_80aa0dc31a_o.jpg


The Great Escape (1963)
This was the first time I've seen this on the big screen, for the 75th Anniversary of the escape with a live intro from Historian Dan Snow. The nearly 3-hour runtime melts away thanks to an all-star cast and a script packed with humour, drama and action. James Garner was the standout for me, positively radiating impertinence and mischievous wit in the face of a deadly enemy. Richard Attenborough's performance was much darker than I remembered and Charles Bronson is powerful yet vulnerable as the heroic Polish tunnel master who suffers from claustrophobia. Steve McQueen is just being 100% Steve McQueen, 100% of the time, looking roguish, ruggedly handsome and riding the hell outta that motorcycle! Only James Coburn lets the side down with the least convincing Australian accent ever committed to celluloid.

 

thecuddlyninja

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Happy Death Day 2 U (2019)

Pretty entertaining, leans into the comedy aspect even harder than the first. On the one hand, I respect the hell out of a sequel that tries to do something different, and not just more of the same. On the other hand, the thing they did here is super explain what caused the first movie, and that is just really unnecessary. It demystifies the first film and kinda takes away from the emotional catharsis of it. Not just thematically but literally (alternate dimension movies are wild). So yeah, solid and entertaining follow up, respect its hustle, will forget all about it in a month.
 

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Stalker (1979)

man this was brilliant. instant favorite for me. first Tarkovsky movie i watched too, love how the pace and the story were handled. loved the cinematography and how long and how few shots he uses - really refreshing when compared to what's been coming out of Hollywood these days. this movie also reminded me a bit of Apocalypse Now, but maybe it's just because they came out in the same year, i don't know. i guess the 'journey' aspect of both movies are also similar, Stalker being the better film imo.

emotionally speaking though, this movie made me reflect a lot. very intriguing, loved every aspect of the psychological questions the movie imposed upon me. maybe it's i who was missing out on something but i'd never seen any story like this one before, and the philosophical talk in between the characters and also the obstacles they face...

what a great ride this was. i really wanna rewatch this, except that i wanna be really high next time around.
 

TM2YC

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Suspiria (2018)
I've visited the city of Varese, Italy and seen the abandoned Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori (where the interiors and exterior were shot) high up on a hill, looking very much like The Overlook Hotel, or The Bates Motel. I also know somebody who has been on a tour of the inside after filming was completed. The guides apparently said the filmmakers had vandalized the Art Nouveau building and stolen pieces of architecture/artwork. So I didn't go into watching this film feeling well disposed to the people involved :mad: .

A new subplot about an elderly Psychiatrist is the main reason why this remake is a full hour longer than the original film. I felt that whenever the weirdness within the dance school begins to build up a sense of sickly dread, the film cuts away to this very sombre outside story and that dark energy dissipates. The whole thing could be taken out fairly easily, leaving a more satisfying artsy Horror experience. The modern-dance sequence halfway through backed by Thom Yorke's score (video below) was the only scene that I felt really nailed the full power of what the film was going for, I had a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach all the way through. This remake is inferior but it's got some unique and extreme body-Horror scenes that should please David Cronenberg fans.

Tilda Swinton plays three characters brilliantly, the imperious choreographer, a disgusting old witch and the kindly old Psychiatrist through heavy prosthetics. I noticed within a few seconds that it was her in a rubber mask (although a pretty good one) and then found it very distracting throughout because I kept wondering why they had Swinton in makeup instead of just a real old male actor. Was there going to be a big twist reveal that necessitated this casting decision? Nope, there was no reason at all.


 

TM2YC

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Apollo 13 (1995)
I've been wanting to re-watch this movie since I saw Damien Chazelle's similarly Apollo-Mission centered 'First Man' last year and happily it popped up on Netflix. This manages a much better balance between the Astronauts in jeopardy and the anguish of their families (we need to see they are worried but not devote half the movie to it). If I had to criticise 'Apollo 13', I think it's almost too well crafted, too expertly formulated and is too successful at manipulating our emotions. Beyond that, it's difficult to fault a movie with an all-star cast of this caliber (Ed Harris has never been better), a rousing score by the late James Horner and a real-life story that could hardly be more dramatic.

 

TM2YC

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Opera (1987)
Dario Argento apparently had a stage Opera project fall through, which he used as inspiration for a semi-autobiographical Giallo featuring an Italian Giallo Director mounting a stage production of Verdi's Opera 'Macbeth'. The setting is the perfect excuse to blend Argento's brand of heightened theatrical Horror with the heightened power of Opera music (plus the usual Prog Rock and some Metal too). The images of crazed Ravens and eyes abound, extreme close-ups of eyes, Ravens eating eyeballs, ravens clawing out eyes, people being shot in the eye and of course the central conceit of a girl having her eyes forced open by dressmaker's pins. The practical gore FX are on another level of realism and splatter. As usual, Argento is the master of leading the viewer "up the garden path" and had me theorising that virtually every character was the murderer at one point or the other :D .


(^ I love that trailer voice!)

I've now seen all of Dario Argento's films up to this one, the reputed steep decline in quality after this point makes me wonder if I should watch any more and save being disappointed. I'd rate them something like this:

1. Deep Red
2. Suspiria
3. Tenebre
4. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
5. Phenomena
6. Opera
7. The Cat o' Nine Tails
8. Inferno
9. Four Flies on Grey Velvet
10. The Five Days of Milan
 

The Scribbling Man

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Notorious (1946)
I missed this one during my last Hitchcock binge, so was glad to get the opportunity to rewatch it now.

The first half feels a little glacial at times and the head-over-heels romance is very forced to start, but from there it develops more naturally, believabley (and painfully) over the course of the film - making the moment where Grant's character says "I love you" as impactful as it should be. 

But for me it's from the marriage onwards and the stakes are raised that the film comes alive. Hitch is masterful with the camera as always and the scenes of tension are as effective as ever. The party, the cellar, the poisoning, the escape - and oh, that icy glare from Eric to Alex as he walks down the stairs... We all know that when that door closes his fate is sealed. 

Ingrid Bergmann delivers an excellent performance throughout, but the fear on her face when she realises the coffee is the culprit is striking - a standout moment for me. 

I'm not a fan of Cary Grant, but he gets the job done. Charismatic and charming as always. 

This won't be making its way onto my favourites list, but overall it's a solid entry in the Hitch Canon and one I would be happy to watch again.
 

Neglify

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TM2YC said:
... the reputed steep decline in quality after this point makes me wonder if I should watch any more and save being disappointed.

Not a terrible idea, the only post-Opera flick I like is "Sleepless". And I'd suggest finishing off his Mothers trilogy with "Mother of Tears", even though it's terrible. Maybe see if Dr. Sapirstein's fanedit is still online.
 
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