It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

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It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Mach6 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 7:04 pm

We had about 3 days in a row here in Chicago where it’s been below zero, so it feels like winter to me. If Vargas isn’t going to start this thread, then somebody has to do the dirty work DAMN IT!
I’m just going to give quick reviews.

The Hobbit DOS: An improvement over the first Hobbit, but it still feels like 20 minutes could’ve been chopped off. I would’ve been fine with keeping the spiders, barrels, & the finale with Smaug scenes & get rid of some of the elves’ stuff. Some of the CGI quality was inconsistent. It frustrates me that Smaug looks incredible but most of the Orc henchmen are very cartoonish looking.

American Hustle: My favorite movie of 2013. Bale, Lawrence, Adams, Cooper, Renner, & the rest of the cast (even Louis C.K.!) are at the top of their games. It deserves all the praise it has been getting. BTW, am I the only one who liked Lawrence singing & dancing to Live and Let Die?

Elysium: I F’N hated it at the theater & I tried to give it another chance on rental and still F’N hate it. Could the partisan liberal message being any more subtle than a kick to the groin? Sharlto Copley’s “turn the volume up to 13” act has gotten old & especially obnoxious, Damon has no chemistry with Alice Braga, Foster’s accent goes in and out, & did I mention how ham-fisted the story’s message was?

Illegal Immigration=GOOD
Need a better healthcare system=GOOD
Rich People=BAD AND SELFISH

To give credit where it’s do, the CGI effects were incredible (just like District 9) and the tech design was very cool. That’s about it.

Come on Vargas, where are you? :(
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:59 pm

Mach6 wrote:We had about 3 days in a row here in Chicago where it’s been below zero, so it feels like winter to me. If Vargas isn’t going to start this thread, then somebody has to do the dirty work DAMN IT!


What can I say? I don't like to shovel. :D

Henry Selick's CORALINE 3D (2009) on Blu-ray for the first time. The original 3D family movie overshadowed by that "other" blockbuster 3D movie of 2009 (you know, James Cameron's big-screen adaptation of "The Smurfs" ;-)), "Coraline" is just what you expect from the creative mind behind "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that isn't named Tim Burton. The story isn't all that special (girl wishes for family/friends other than the one's she has, gets her wish granted by a magical door on the wall and regrets her wish when she gets more than she bargained for) but the style, execution and imagination behind it's art design and special effects is nothing short of breathtaking. The behind-the-scenes material is must-see as it really enhances and makes you appreciate more what "Coraline" does as an example of old and new school filmmaking techniques at the service of a family-friendly and girl-power fun movie that doesn't overstay it's 101 min. running time. BTW, am I the only one who didn't think 'Wybie' was black until the very end of the movie when we see his grandma's sister?

Martin Campbell's THE GREEN LANTERN (2011) on Blu-ray. Watched the movie with 'Maximum Movie Mode,' code word for featurettes/interviews/pictures about the making of the flick as it plays. I shouldn't be surprised by this anymore, but it never ceases to amaze me how much effort, passion and good-intentioned work goes into making movies that turn out as tone deaf and badly as this misguided attempt to adapt something as vast and hard to encapsulate as the Green Lantern mythology. You can tell by this behind-the-scenes material that everybody was looking forward to doing sequels and earning steady paychecks from regular "Green Lantern" gigs... oops. :o

Joshua Oppeneimer's THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) in theaters for the first time. I sat for two hours stunned and in silence as I watched this documentary, even though there are scenes/moments that are clearly meant to be laughed at for the sheer absurdity and Chutzpah on display (by subjects and filmmakers alike). Years in the making (Errol Morris and Werner Herzog executive producing can do that for your production) and with fascinatingly candid and amoral individuals telling about the state-sanctioned mass killings they did for the Indonesian government in the 1960's, "The Act of Killing" is basically historical rope handed over to mass murderers so they can hang themselves by the amorality of their on-screen actions. Whether its re-enacting torture sessions with 20's gangster style garb or burning a village for the cameras or just recalling their actions as casually as they name-drop Hollywood movies and stars that inspired them, this is also a powerful indictment about how movie violence can influence warped minds for the worst.

Haifaa Al-Mansour's WADJDA (2013) in theaters for the first time. The scene when young Waad Mohammed is reciting a chapter of the Quran perfectly and her face lights up, contrasted with what she is actually saying (which she is too young to fully grasp), is one of the most heart-breaking and best movie moments I've experienced in theaters in this or any other year. "Wadjda's" characters have stakes so small and relatively insignificant (wishing for a better job, wanting a bike, etc.) that it makes its lead character's plight to achieve her goal all the more universal. This is what Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" (see below) should have been but wasn't.

Woody Allen's BLUE JASMINE (2013) in theaters for the first time. One of the few movies I had to see twice in theaters to fully enjoy the canvas of dark comedy and pathos it offers. Cate Blanchett breathes so much life and intensity into the title character that I don't think even Allen knew how much Jasmine would leap out of the screen, bouncing off a talented cast or Woody regulars (Alec Baldwin) and new-to-Woody players like Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay (both of which are quite good!) as a fire-breathing dragon lady on Zoloft. If Bruce Dern is a lock for Best Actor for "Nebraska" (see below) then Blanchett is likewise for Best Actress, and deservedly so. The ending is a brutal but rewarding metaphorical answer to something we've always asked when we see an old lady in the park talking to herself.

Abdellatif Kechiche's BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013) in theaters for the first time. One of the greatest movie romances ever made, given ample time to breath and showing with borderline-acute precision the little moments (gestures, caresses, casual looks, etc.), intense ones (passionate and explicit sex that, yep, actually enhances the story) and average ones (dinners with friends, trying to get through the work day, etc.) that come into the fabric of a relationship running through its natural course. The graphic novel on which the movie is based was good, but Kechiche improved it dramatically and opens the narrative wide open from just a lesbian love story to something more universal. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux are both excellent (why one is getting more ink than the next is beyond me) and this is a three hour movie that, like "The Wolf of Wall Street," just flies so fast you can't believe it when it's over.

Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee's FROZEN 3D (2013) in theaters for the first time. Judge Patrick Bromley's review and the film's come-from-behind Christmas box office push made me want to sample the type of movie I didn't know Disney was making again: Family-friendly (which means single folks can enjoy them) entertainment that is character-based (two princesses for the price of one), gives a new spin to tried-and-true Disney formulas (i.e. a girl doesn't depend on a guy's love for her happiness, comic relief characters with humanity behind their clown act) and doesn't make me hate the musical interludes because the tunes are so damn catchy. I'm a sucker for narratives about sisters that are distant learning to love one another, and the arc of Anna (Kirsten Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) is dramatic, funny, maddening and interesting enough to complement some amazing CG effects (Anna building her ice castle to the beat of "Let It Go" literally dropped my jaw to the floor) that are worthy of Pixar comparisons. At the end of "Frozen" me and other theater patrons talked and agreed that we wanted a sequel to this ASAP. Pretty good complement for a CG movie that's not a sequel and didn't feature any big stars moonlighting for a paycheck.

Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA (2013) in theaters for the first time. Will Forte steals the movie from a gauntlet of heavyweights (Dern, Keach, Squibb, Odenkirk, etc.) that both hold their own and enhance Payne's patented bag of emotional, hilarious and pathos-soaked story-telling tricks. At first I didn't think Bruce Dern was doing enough to deserve the accolades he's been receiving, but a second viewing showed me that Bruce and June Squibb are doing a lot more subtle work (mostly reaction shots) than I initially given them credit for. "Nebraska" is also one of the most gorgeous and best-looking films of the year, in ironic feat for a B&W film in which panoramic vistas aren't its main selling point.

Spike Jonze's HER (2013) in theaters for the first time. In a futuristic directed by Jonze with his usual flare, amazing production/photography and one of Phoenix's best performance to date, the real standout of "Her" is Scarlett Johansson's voice, the through line that unites an amazingly moving, funny and peculiarly romantic film. It gets a tad repetitive and lacks an antagonist or driving force (ala "Being John Malkovich"), but I guess having a relationship between a man and a computer program should provide enough drama for most folks who have been in love to relate to.

Martin Scorsese's THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) in theaters for the first time. Last year I saw Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom" for the first time, and I couldn't help but notice how much The Archers' filmography (and "Peeping Tom's" penchant for operatic displays of virtuoso camera work to make the viewer admire and even side with the crazy protagonist) informs Scorsese's compositions and mise-en-scene. You know Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio (in their best collaboration to date) are on to something when the immediate/inevitable comparisons of "Wolf" to "Goodfellas" and "Casino" fade away, and the lunacy and intensity of "Wolf" become their own. I'm not seeing what everyone seems to see in Seth Rogen's performance; he's fine but to me isn't as integral to the story as his character was in "Moneyball." My only, very real fear: The assholes from "The Act of Killing" will take on this film the same way they and their ilk looked at old Hollywood 'gangster' movies for inspiration. :(

Asghar Farhadi's THE PAST (2013) in theaters for the first time. "A Separation" blew me away the year it came out, and sadly for his next high-profile follow-up Asghar Farhadi seems to be trying too hard to match the dramatic tone of his previous film. An Iranian man (Ali Mosaffa, sensational) coming to France to formalize his legal divorce from his wife (Bérénice Bejo) so he can marry the new man in her life (Tahar Rahim), but a teenage daughter from a previous relationship (Pauline Burlet) gets in the way by actions that it takes the whole movie to unravel. The plot reveals and twists are worthy of a Douglas Silk melodrama, which is at odds with the serious tone and sober acting by a good cast that struggles to come across realistic when going through the soap opera antics. It's a fine, dramatic and well-intentioned family secrets drama, but it's not "A Separation."
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Polynikes » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:03 pm

The American (2010). SPOILERS. A major disappointment. It is a film about - well, very little, and nothing of any interest. An American hitman retreats to a small Italian village and questions his choice of life and career, with the help of the concerned and friendly local priest, while falling in love with a local prostitute. And it is uninvolving. I don't mind slow pace, and I can forgive plot holes (of which there are many in this film) if a film is interesting, but from the word "go", I found nothing to draw me in other than the beautiful Italian countryside which reminded me of some joyful holidays and working experiences in that wonderful country. The film is mainly about George Clooney looking angst ridden (or maybe suffering from constipation) while drinking coffee, assembling a weapon for an unspecified contract, talking with the priest or having sex with the implausibly beautiful, young, sensitive and cultured prostitute - if Italian villages each had someone like Violante Placido, Italy's already healthy tourist industry would go through the roof. (By the way, the film makers make sure to include gratuitous sex and nudity designed to appeal to both the male and female heterosexual audience, presumably correctly sensing that the audience will be bored unless there is something titillating to keep them watching). It is hard to feel any interest or emotional involvement in the introspective middle age life crisis of a killer, particularly after we see him cold bloodedly murdering his girlfriend in the opening scenes, presumably lest she reveal his trade as a hitman, and with little or no detail about his background or his pursuers to generate any intrigue. I gained the impression that Clooney thought he was making an arty European style thriller; but European cinema is not just about nice photography, lingering scenes in cafes and close ups of facial expressions. Characterisation and plot to draw in the viewer remain the heartbeat of any film, and there is little of that on show here.
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Mach6 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:15 am

J.M. Vargas wrote:Martin Scorsese's THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) in theaters for the first time. Last year I saw Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom" for the first time, and I couldn't help but notice how much The Archers' filmography (and "Peeping Tom's" penchant for operatic displays of virtuoso camera work to make the viewer admire and even side with the crazy protagonist) informs Scorsese's compositions and mise-en-scene. You know Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio (in their best collaboration to date) are on to something when the immediate/inevitable comparisons of "Wolf" to "Goodfellas" and "Casino" fade away, and the lunacy and intensity of "Wolf" become their own. I'm not seeing what everyone seems to see in Seth Rogen's performance; he's fine but to me isn't as integral to the story as his character was in "Moneyball."


I didn't know Seth Rogen was in Moneyball. :o I admit, sometimes Jonah Hill's act can be just as obnoxious as Rogen's. You got the wrong overweight (or as Cartman from South Park would say "Big Boned") comedic actor, Vargas. ;-) I saw The Wolf of Wall Street about a week ago and it has replaced American Hustle as my best movie for 2013.
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Fri Jan 24, 2014 11:37 pm

Damn! :shock: As if Jonah "only" getting paid 60K (versus Leo's millions) wasn't already insulting-enough now I'm confusing him with the dude from "Take This Waltz!" :lol: God, I'm old! :cry:
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:13 pm

Nagisa Ôshima's BOY (1969) in 35mm at NYC's Film Forum for the first time. Dialing back his cinematic quirks (which still shine through via abrupt camera lens and B&W photography switches) and channeling his social concerns (Japan's post-war economic miracle hiding a deep bench of social inequality) into a streamlined narrative, "Boy" might be Ôshima's most restrained, accessible and picturesque movie. A road trip through most of Japan as we follow a clan of drifters stage fake injuries to eek a day-to-day existence, the boy in question (Tetsuo Abe) develops, loses and regains his footing in a complicated relationship with an abusive father (Fumio Watanabe) and complicated stepmother (Akiko Koyama) that often seems to be on the verge of free will, only for the pull of dependency to reset things back to the only "normal" this boy has known. The movie's switch to "Unbreakable"-like police procedural toward the end is both startling and fitting, but the heartbreak of the movie's final shot (which recalls Truffaut's "The 400 Blows") isn't the least bit dulled.

Jim Sharman's THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at NYC's Cinema Village. Attended a midnight showing (is there any other time?) of the longest-running theatrically-released movie in US history, first time I've seen it since I booked it at the college I attended back in the mid-90's. The NY chapter of people who put up the regularly-scheduled live show have it down to an elaborate science, to the point you gotta watch the movie at home to actually try and follow the plot because there is too much 'live' stuff happening to actually watch the actual movie. I still can't get over how magnetic a performance Tim Curry puts, or that Cronenberg's DP Peter Suschitzky did the photography.

Katsuhiro Ohtomo's AKIRA (1988) at NYC's Landmark Sunshine. I've seen "Akira" a few times before, but every time I rewatch it I realize I've forgotten most of it and the film feels like it's new to me. I was struck how Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" borrows a few shots from "Akira" (specifically when Tetsuo jumps straight up toward the satellite), yet the hand-drawn 26 year old film smokes it in vision, ambition and overall scope of the ultimate Hulk-out channeled through Big Bang genes run amok inside a bullied teenager's battered psyche.

Philipp Kadelbach's GENERATION WAR (2014) at Film Forum for the first time. A 2013 German TV mini-series with more than a passing resemblance to "Band of Brothers," this theatrical version (close to five hours) is allowed enough room to breath and exude the aura of an epic as it follows the ups and (mostly) downs of it's five CW-approved young German nationals as they make a promise in early '41 to get back together and meet later that Christmas. If you can tolerate the loops the writers jump through to keep these characters alive and/or running into each other throughout the war you'll be rewarded with some standout performances (Volker Bruch's Wilhelm, Miriam Stein's Charlotte, etc.), decent-but-predictable redemptive narratives (Tom Schilling's portrayal of Friedhelm) and the thought-provoking fact you're watching contemporary Germans' cinematic take on an armed conflict in which they've universally been portrayed as the bad guys filtered through their POV. Decent stuff.
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Polynikes » Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:26 pm

Airplane! Best comedy of all time.I must have seen this a dozen times, but I laugh out loud every time. A great way to cheer oneself up. My children love it too.
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:25 am

^^^ How old are your children, and do you cover their eyes when you-know-who comes out in the middle of the passengers going crazy when they realize the plane's out of coffee? ;-) :D :lol:
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Polynikes » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:37 pm

.
J.M. Vargas wrote:^^^ How old are your children, and do you cover their eyes when you-know-who comes out in the middle of the passengers going crazy when they realize the plane's out of coffee? ;-) :D :lol:


They are teenage boys. Do you mean the part where Julie Haggerty (Elaine, the stewardess) tries casually to inquire over the tannoy whether anyone can fly a plane and everyone panics, and a topless lady shimmies in front of the camera? That's nothing - my younger teenager attempts to cover my eyes. There are a few moments which could have been embarrassing in the film (e.g. Julie Haggerty attempting to inflate Otto, the automatic pilot, and Peter Graves conversing with Joey) and which might seem tacky in another film, but somehow they remain joyfully silly and innocent in Airplane! and I don't really feel embarrassed watching with the boys
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Ash22 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 12:33 pm

The Train
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Polynikes » Fri Aug 01, 2014 3:07 pm

Ash22 wrote:The Train


The 1964 war film? I have never seen it, but it seems to be held in high regard and I would love to watch it one day.
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Re: It’s about time for the Winter/Spring 2014 Watching Thread!

Postby Ash22 » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:09 pm

Polynikes wrote:
Ash22 wrote:The Train


The 1964 war film? I have never seen it, but it seems to be held in high regard and I would love to watch it one day.


When you watch a movie made by John Frankenheimer, you're watching a true craftsman at work.
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