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A few reviews

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Masirimso17 said:
EDIT: I just found out the film takes place in 1962. Oops. I missed the first minutes of the movie so... I dunno, it just felt very 50s, y’know?

Cultural eras rarely align directly with decades, and the culture moved more slowly back then, especially in smaller towns and suburbs. American Graffiti, as I understand it, is very much a film of '50s culture, its exact narrative date notwithstanding.
 

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The official BFI 87th best British film...

Women in Love (1969)
The 2016 BFI 4K restoration of Ken Russell's 'Women in Love' is one of the best looking blu-rays I've seen. Every shot looks perfect, all the colours are richly saturated, yet skin-tones are always balanced, sharp, detailed and pleasingly grainy. Even if the film hadn't been brilliant, I would still have spent a couple of happy hours admiring the transfer!  :D


As the title suggests, it's about two women (middle class sisters) who begin intense love affairs with two upper class men, who are already best friends. Alan Bates has a wonderful careless charm, contrasting the dark brooding of Oliver Reed. The famous homoerotic fireside nude-wrestling scene between Bates and Reed lives up to it's reputation. Ken Russell's extravagant theatrics are somewhat subdued, he focuses more on character and romantic passion, although there is a beautiful sequence where he shoots two lovers sideways as they waltz through peacock feathers in slow motion, so they appear to be tumbling vertically through the frame. By the way, this was the first film from 'Brandywine Productions', one of only three they've made not from the 'Alien' franchise.


^ Love the trailer voiceover in this one.
 

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Cam (2018, Netflix Original)

cam-madelinebrewer-oncamera-jacket-700x311.jpg


In this cyber-thriller, a young cam model's life is thrown into chaos when she's locked out of her account, and a doppelgänger of sorts begins to perform as her - including, seemingly, in her own home, though said double doesn't seem to appear in meatspace. What's going on? The answer:

There is no answer, beyond a vague suggestion of a digital spirit of some kind. Not that every story needs answers, but instead of following the dream logic to a fittingly vague conclusion, the plot contrives a brief contest wherein the spirit is defeated (temporarily, at least), and things return more or less to normal. Meh.

Madeline Brewer is terrific in the lead role, and the flick zips along, but I can't quite recommend it...

B-
 

TM2YC

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Southern Comfort (1981)
Walter Hill Directs this intense Survival/Horror about a squad of Louisiana National Guardsman on maneuvers in the bayou, who get lost, p*ss off some local Cajuns and become hunted. Hill is confidant enough in his ability to make us empathise with the protagonists through his direction (I was hooked) that he makes the soldiers complete a**holes. The cast, lead by Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe and Fred Ward are terrific and their characters are fully defined within minutes. It's difficult to not see the film as a Vietnam allegory.


Once Upon a Time in China III (1993)
This time we find Wong Fei-hung, 13th Aunt (and sidekick Leung Foon) on a trip to Beijing to see Wong's father and ask his permission to marry. They get embroiled in the fierce battles between rival factions to win the prestige of a Lion-Dance competition and mixed up in a Russian spy plot. Jet Li is so endearing because although he looks in total control when dishing out the Kung Fu moves, he gets easily flustered in matters of the heart and a little pompous when pretending to understand strange Western customs. A beautiful scene features 13th Aunt trying to teach him English but he comically mishears it all as rude Cantonese sayings and it ends with her showing him how to say "I love you". It's a delightful Romantic-Comedy at times so I was very disappointed when the film abruptly ended without resolving the marriage/love plot! (especially since Li and Rosamund Kwan aren't in the next film). The fight sequences (which mostly involve Lion costumes) were a bit too visually chaotic and silly for my tastes. 'Once Upon a Time in China III' is great fun but not up to the previous two installments. By the way, the new 4K scan is once again sharp but the colour grade is pretty inconsistent from shot-to-shot.

 

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Point Break (1991)
An oddly beguiling mix of terrific action, quasi-Zen musings, larger-than-life characters and laughable schlock of the 'Forensics guy has a labcoat, glasses and a bowtie' variety. A sort of Lethal Weapon-esque tale of surfboarding bank robbers, where every other line is quotable (see 'Hot Fuzz'). Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves have great chemistry but the (possibly homoerotic) bro-mance between Reeves and Patrick Swayze is where the tension and drama really lies. Reeves is a touch wooden, John C. McGinley overacts wildly, Swayze has never been better and Gary Busey is surprisingly endearing as a faded Cop. Director Kathryn Bigelow serves up one of the all-time great car chases, a tense bank heist (which has to be an influence on the opening of 'The Dark Knight') and an exhilarating skydive sequence.


^ God those oldskool trailers are "100% pure adrenaline"! (To quote the film).
 

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Once Upon a Time in China IV (1993)
Stars Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan didn't sign on for this 4th installment, so they recast Vincent Zhao as Wong Fei-hung (very much the George Lazonby of this franchise :D ) and replaced 13th Aunt with 14th Aunt (played by Jean Wang), an almost carbon-copy character. Director Yuen Bun does a decent job of replicating Tsui Hark's visual style (Hark acts as Producer). Zhao matches Li's Kung Fu abilities but he doesn't have anything like the same subtle acting range. The script is hesitant to have Wong romance 14th Aunt, possibly in the hopes of Kwan and Li returning, so she ends up a redundant character.

To minimise this surface weirdness, the filmmakers take the wise decision to have this be the first film that continues the story from the last. So that means more Lion Dances, which was my least favourite element of Part III. The impressively intricate and comparatively realistic Martial Arts of the first two films, is now almost totally replaced by endless jumping and flying around on wires but thankfully the finale is mostly a straight up ground level Kung Fu match. One sequence that really stood out was an improbable fight which takes place on top of a fragile arrangement of giant dominoes. The old DVD transfer disappoints next to the new 4K restorations of the opening trilogy.

 

TM2YC

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acae83e6d60c24792a635ddf8bfc9184.jpg


(^ Awesome poster)

Call Me Lucky (2015)
Bobcat Goldthwait biopic of Comedian and Activist Barry Crimmins (I'd never heard of the guy before) which employs that irritating Documentary device of withholding discussion of a major revelation but simultaneously not being able to resist sideways hints at what it is, so that viewers paying attention will guess the nature of it and then just be frustrated by the Director deliberately avoiding that particular "elephant in the room" for the best part of an hour. That structural nitpick aside, this is a powerful, thought provoking, often very upsetting but often hilarious film that is well worth a watch.


(^ Trailer contains spoiler, what it's also about, apart from comedy)
 

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The Secrets of Scott's Hut (2011)
Affable TV explorer Ben Fogle accompanies a team working to document and restore the 100 year old base camp of “Scott of the Antarctic” in this feature length BBC Documentary. Eerily, the extreme cold has almost preserved the hut and it’s contents like it was 5-minutes after the explorers went home. Frozen dogs still chained up, a century old rancid butter etc signs of life but no one there living. It might just be me but I couldn't help recalling John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. The velvet voice of Sir Kenneth Branagh reads extracts from Scott’s journals.


Apollo 11 (2019)
Astonishing newly discovered 70mm footage bookends this document of the 1969 NASA mission. Director Todd Douglas Miller combines the brilliant Asif Kapadia technique of only using contemporaneous footage and audio, with a visceral 93-minute ride, clearly patterned after Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer's work in 'Interstellar' and 'Dunkirk'. The opening section leading up to and during the launch is worth the price of admission alone (and should be seen on the big screen). This 70mm Documentary footage is as beautiful as anything ever filmed for a fictional space movie. It captures the mind-boggling scale of the Saturn V rocket like nothing I've seen before but also gets up close to every line of worry in the faces of the NASA engineers. All the shots of people in headsets looking at 60s consoles, backed by disembodied radio chatter was oddly like watching George Lucas' 'THX 1138'.

Unfortunately the film then chooses to follow the astronauts to the moon for most of it's run-time, where no such quality footage exists. So we fall back on blurry videotape, 16mm black and white and still photographs. It doesn't feel like anything we haven't seen before a hundred times, incredible as this story is. They get back to earth (spoilers), credits roll and underneath them is more of that amazing 70mm showing the rocket being constructed (the whole cinema stayed in their seats to see every last frame of it). Why couldn't they have worked with what they had and so concentrated on the experience of the ground crew? I understand they had days of the stuff to work with. It's still a great film experience though and Matt Morton's epic synth score gets the heart pounding.


^ The trailer is uploaded in 4K :) (it's almost entirely the 70mm stuff).
 

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Candyman (1992)
I hadn't seen this since the VHS days, so Arrow's new razor-sharp 4K reconstruction of the "uncut" UK Theatrical Version was quite the upgrade. However, the increased clarity does draw attention to the not quite convincing lighting/dressing of the interior sets (I reckon I even saw the top of the set once). They shot some of the movie in real dilapidated/abandoned buildings in Chicago, so I don't know why they bothered with costly sets, when real grime and decay was on hand for free. I remembered 'Candyman' as an above average Slasher-Horror but watching again, I was more impressed by the psychological aspects. Director Bernard Rose is careful to never make the Candyman killer explicitly real, so he could be a facet of Virginia Madsen's character's subconscious mind.


The official BFI 93rd best British film...

Caravaggio (1986)
Derek Jarman's unorthodox biopic of the famous painter takes place wholly within the shadowy interior world of his canvases (IIRC there are no exterior shots). The narrative also shares the same preoccupations with sex, power, love, death and bloody violence. Jarman sprinkles in deliberately anachronistic details like calculators, motorbikes and typewriters, making it feel like the present day and the past simultaneously. Nigel Terry plays the artist with intensity and Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean make their screen debuts... Sean's character, true to form, meets a bloody end.

 

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TM2YC said:
Apollo 11 (2019)
[...]
Unfortunately the film then chooses to follow the astronauts to the moon for most of it's run-time, where no such quality footage exists. So we fall back on blurry videotape, 16mm black and white and still photographs.

So... Apollo 11/First Man mashup? :p
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
TM2YC said:
Apollo 11 (2019)
[...]
Unfortunately the film then chooses to follow the astronauts to the moon for most of it's run-time, where no such quality footage exists. So we fall back on blurry videotape, 16mm black and white and still photographs.

So... Apollo 11/First Man mashup? :p

A feasible idea :) . IIRC the moon landing portion of 'First Man' was shot on 70mm too. A third source would be the blu-ray for the celebrated 'For All Mankind' Documentary (I own it), which has extra footage of the launch and archive NASA audio on the bonus features. This idea is definitely gonna percolate in my brain. Thanks.

Once Upon a Time in China V (1994)
Director Tsui Hark returns for this 5th episode and so does Rosamund Kwan's "13th Aunt", marking a slight improvement on the last film. There is more impressive ground-level Kung Fu, more enjoyable comedy side characters and the introduction of proto Hong Kong style gun battles. This time Wong Fei-hung (again being played by Jet Li's replacement Vincent Zhao) and Co are preparing to move to Hong Kong as the Qing Dynasty collapses but are delayed by the need to tackle a violent Pirate horde. Sadly there is still no resolution to and little development of Wong's romance with 13th Aunt, although a comically misunderstood love-triangle with 14th Aunt was funny.

[video=dailymotion]
 

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TM2YC said:
Fyre (2018)
Music festival disaster Documentary Directed by the same guy who did the excellent 'Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond'. It's like "Schadenfreude: The Movie", watching vain, social-media obsessed people with more money than sense get scammed. You still feel sorry for the people who were clearly working hard in good faith on the project.

Just watched Netflix's Fyre and Hulu's Fyre Fraud within a 24-hour period. As Slate has noted, both docs are ethically compromised: "Fyre was produced in part by Jerry Media, which ran the marketing campaign for the festival. Fyre Fraud suggests they knew the festival was failing and marketed it anyway, while Fyre mostly leaves them out of the story." But Fyre Fraud actually paid scam ringleader McFarland for his on-camera interview, which, even if it eventually makes its way to his victims through litigation (with lawyers taking a healthy bits), is pretty damn shady. And only Fyre actually makes a point of caring about the Bahamanian victims. (Happily, it seems that said Netflix doc actually resulted in its most prominent victim finally recouping her losses, and then some, via a GoFundMe effort.)

Then again, Fyre Fraud alone makes the obvious direct link between its primary focus con man and a certain other con man this forum's moderators won't let me name. :p Fyre Fraud is also alone in showing that McFarland is also dating a Russian model from prison, and that they seem to have met after the festival debacle, which is a pretty incredible twist to the story, but then, only Fyre has jaw-dropping footage of McFarland's latest business activities in that time frame.

Slate again: "Neither movie is perfect, and each underlines the other’s flaws, but if you’re watching one, watch Fyre, which is both less self-righteous and less inclined to punctuate its insights with Family Guy clips." Yup.

Fyre Fraud (Hulu): B
Fyre (Netflix): B+
 

TV's Frink

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Gaith said:
Then again, Fyre Fraud alone makes the obvious direct link between its primary focus con man and a certain other con man this forum's moderator's won't let me name. :p 

@"Gaith" 

What?

EDIT: Wait, assuming this is politics related, never mind, I get it now.
 

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School Daze (1988)
Spike Lee's second college-campus based feature is a total mess, I can't even judge if parts are supposed to funny, or serious. 20-minutes in, there is a Grease-style musical number and I'm thinking "Wait, so this is a Musical now?". Nope, there are no other sequences like that, although a band does play a full song about bottoms. It's like an embarrassing community amateur theater play about "issues" that has somehow been green-lit by Columbia Pictures with a multi-million Dollar budget. There is a small section in the middle where Laurence Fishburne and his friends have some serious discussions about South Africa and pondering their class and status in American society that really worked... then we're back to an overlong dance sequence, to who knows what purpose? There is a horribly misjudged rapey scene in the last part which isn't properly dealt with. Presumably because Spike couldn't think of a proper conclusion, it all just ends with Fishburne shouting "Wake up!" out at us the audience (I won't make the obvious joke which that invites). At least Ernest Dickerson's Cinematography is nice.


(I hope this is as bad as Spike Lee's filmography gets but I know there are films with a way worse reputation than this one.)
 

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I haven't seen every Spike joint, but the only film of his worse than School Daze is the Oldboy remake.
 

TM2YC

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Neglify said:
I haven't seen every Spike joint, but the only film of his worse than School Daze is the Oldboy remake.

Not seen that yet but I always wonder how can Oldboy + Josh Brolin possibly = Bad?!? It must have some serious problems.
 

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It's the only Spike joint that says "A Spike Lee Film" because the studio cut out 35 minutes against his wishes.
 

TM2YC

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Neglify said:
It's the only Spike joint that says "A Spike Lee Film" because the studio cut out 35 minutes against his wishes.

Ah interesting. So it's a Fant4stic/Suicide Squad type situation. That explains how it turned out, thanks.

8 Days: To the Moon and Back (2019)
A feature-length BBC Drama/Doc that gets three actors to lip-sync to the NASA recordings of the Apollo 11 astronauts. That central conceit works beautifully but several technical flaws spoiled it for me. The look of the new material just isn't right, it never convinces as footage from 1969 and the constant use of "grindhouse" plugin FX (light-leaks, scratches, reel ends, splices, static etc placed over the actual pristine old NASA footage), plus loud sound FX to punctuate each edit drove me round the bend.


Once Upon a Time in China VI aka Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997)
Thankfully for the last in the film series Jet Li returns to the role of Wong Fei-hung, along with Rosamund Kwan as "13th Aunt". This time they're on a visit to America, in the old West, so we get "Cowboys and Indians" meets Kung Fu. Wong gets a bump on his head, suffers amnesia and comically joins a Native American tribe. This leads to a funny sequence where his pupils try to jog his memory by recreating the fights from the previous films, backed by a Chinese band playing the Wong Fei-hung theme tune :D .


There are also subplots around the experience of Chinese immigrants, the setting up of the first "China Town", a Mexican Bandit, a corrupt Mayor and our heroes befriending a cowboy called Billy (the Kid?). The promised marriage to "13th Aunt" doesn't happen but they do exchange rings... I'll take that :heart: . The fight choreography is the best since Part 2 and I was laughing at the jokes all the way through. Part 6 ignores the Jet Li free Parts 4 & 5 (but it doesn't contradict them either) so on future re-watches I think I'll just skip them. The new 2K scan isn't as good as the other spectacular 4K scans but it's more than adequate.


Having now seen them all, I'd rank the series as follows: 2, 1, 6, 3, 5, 4.
 

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The Matrix (1999)
An unmissable 20th Anniversary 4K screening of this highly influential classic. It's barely aged a day, especially the FX... unlike a certain other Sci-Fi film released a month after 'The Matrix' back in 1999. I was marveling at how much effort The Wachowskis put into doing as much practical and as little with computers as possible (for a landmark CGI film). For example, they'll do one morph effect on an agent, then use clever slight of hand editing to do the next couple of changes, accompanied by the same distinctive morph sound, tricking us into thinking we've seen lots of morph FX. I was also struck by the writing. Unlike the sloppy sequels, this script feels like the structure was meticulously planned and every word was sweated over. So many lines have double meanings, or foreshadow later events and always dealing out just enough information to keep us informed but also to maintain the tension of the mystery. I love the visual references to the films of Alfred Hitchcock and of course the Bernard Hermann alike score from Don Davis. The action is still thrilling and that 'Rage Against the Machine' ending still elicits excitement for future adventures (even with knowledge of the sequels existence).


Sadly the 4K transfer is very bad. They've clearly gone back and scanned the negative, with eye-watering levels of sharp detail but the FX shots look to be still locked at the 2K in which they were created, 20-years ago. So cutting back and forth between the two resolutions is less than seamless in a way that was never originally intended. Every shot has had the contrast pushed to the max, crushing the blacks and blowing out the whites. There was one noticeable shot where Morpheus pulls a curtain aside to reveal brickwork, except it wasn't there anymore, just a black void. The muted sickly green of The Matrix world and the harsh icy blues of the real world from the original release are of course long gone (to bring this inline with the sequels) but the colours are even worse in this new release. The shots often don't match, regularly inter-cutting footage tinted, blue, green, red, or purple. It's testament to the quality of the film, that the experience wasn't ruined.

This looks to show the transfer I saw:


Skip to 4.24 where Neo has bright pink lips and eyes. I'd like to see a comparison to the old DVD too.

Roy Orbison Black & White Night 30 (2017)
A 30th Anniversary re-edit of the 1988 all-star concert film 'Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night' in pristine HD (I've not seen the original version). Unlike other such events where old stars play with their younger admirers, they are pretty much just his backing band, content to share a stage, rather than the spotlight with their hero. Elvis Presley's old TCB-Band are bolstered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and K.D. Lang. You'd never guess this was filmed a year before his death because Orbison still has the crystal clear voice of a Country angel. The smoky high-contrast black and white Cinematography looks so classy and timeless.

 

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Were you at the screening Kermode attended? Are you buddies with the Doctor?! :D
 
TM2YC said:
This looks to show the transfer I saw: <snip>

Skip to 4.24 where Neo has bright pink lips and eyes. I'd like to see a comparison to the old DVD too.

Urgh. Of course, as a 4K skeptic, I can't help but wonder if some of these transfers have had the contrasts messed with/exaggerated just to make the average consumer believe he's getting an actual upgrade in experience, and not merely some imperceptible (and therefore useless) uptick in resolution. Even if the experience is actually objectively worse as a result of the mucking, he'll believe it's better just because he paid an extra $8-10 for the 4K disc, and his very subconscious will steer him away from thinking he's being fleeced. "What accurate colors, unique to my 4K discs, TV, and player!" he'll say. "Those poor regular blu-ray buyers, spending their hard-earned cash on those lifeless, low-contrast pale reflections of the original films!"

Sadly, the 4K cultists at bluray.com seem to have wholeheartedly bought in to all this:

The selections described above are just a few examples of the many familiar scenes newly revived by the magic of HDR, artfully applied. The Matrix on UHD is a tribute to what can be achieved when art and technology collaborate with due respect for one another.


Old blu-ray
- sure, perhaps a bit greener than the original theatrical release, to match the more obvious green/blue distinction of the sequels, but still full of detail, appropriate contrast, and the right emotional tone.


HDR/UHD/4K bluray


WTF.jpg


:dodgy:
 
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