I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

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I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:18 am

The summer thread kind-of died in August after my watch-a-new-to-me movie year-round resolution went the way of Tim Tebow's NFL career. :o Oh well, time to pucker-up for Fall, starting with some late summer leftover business.

Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM (1960) at NYC Film Forum's Son of Summer Sci-Fi Horror Festival. There's almost nothing left to be said about "Psycho" except that, on the big screen in a theater packed with film fans, the head of steam built toward that unforgettable and truly f***ed-up final minute of the film really elevates the experience and rep of the film as a horror benchmark. I personally get a kick out of Mort Mills' motorcycle cop terrorizing Janet 'I'm Hitch's surrogate' Leigh. :D "Peeping Tom" was new to me (and in 35mm to boot!) and I have to say, I didn't know Michael Powell had in him something this messed-up that he manages to infuse with the trademark Archer cinematic wit, colorful set design and Technicolor-by-proxy photography. Karlheinz Böhm's iconic performance walks such a fine line between show-off goofball and messed-up psycho I need to see the movie again to make-up my mind. Not as influential or fondly-remembered as Hitch's '60 magnum opus, "Peeping Tom" definitely belonged on the 2nd bill of the 2-for-1 billing I saw them both at.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) on HD-DVD. As someone that transcribes and close captions for a living, watching the last act of "2001" (after you-know-what happens to you-know-who) play basically wordless and as a silent movie on steroids (just what are those noises in that room at the end?) floored me. Here's a film that brims with so many ideas, yet most of the dialogue that matters isn't the spoken one (characters throw jargon and inane banter with the robotic delivery that HAL does not have... role-reversal!) but the one of sight and sound that visualizes and translates into images and music mankind finding the answers to the questions he's always asked. Typical of the humorous pessimist that he was about mankind, Kubrick assumes (rightly) our inability to deal with such abstract concepts by reducing them to their bare essentials. That's why this is my #2 favorite movie of all time, just below... well, read below. ;-)

THE FLY (1958) and David Cronenberg's THE FLY (1986) at NYC Film Forum's Son of Summer Sci-Fi Horror Festival. As I was telling friends at work afterward, I didn't realized that I had memorized Cronenberg's "The Fly" (my #1 favorite movie of all time) until I caught myself multiple times during this theatrical screening mouthing all the dialogue the characters were saying along with them (in silence, naturally). The 'insect politics' scene and final minutes of the film, as they have since I first saw it in '87, tear-me up like the bitch this movie owns. Watched back-to-back with the '58 original (hammy and quaint, but very dark and messed-up for a 50's creature feature) the small things in the original that Cronenberg subtly retained (the sound effect of the telepods at the moment of desintegration, the sliding metal door at the lab, etc.) really jumped out. This was a blast, even if the screening of this double-feature was packed with way too many kids (OK for the '58 version, not for the still-gruesome '86 take).

Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR (1985) in 35mm at Lincoln Center Film Society. Screenwriter Dennis Paoli ("Dagon," "From Beyond") introduced the final midnight film of this summer series and to answer some questions. I asked him what he thought of the Brian Yuzna-directed "Re-Animator" sequels that built upon his foundation and, politely, he said they had a few good ideas and that (plus Jeffrey Combs) was all they had going for them... ouch! The 35mm print had seen better days but it was pretty solid and the movie still holds. "Re-Animator" is one of those 80's horror gems that everyone caught on video, but to see it in a mostly-filled theater with an appreciative crowd (Richard Band's credit got the most applause during the opening credits) both felt comforting and like we were all watching/doing something we'd need to take a shower for afterwards. "The scene" with naked Barbara Crampton on the slab literally made ten people say 'holy shit!' outloud. 8)

Ron Fricke's CHRONOS (1985) on Blu-ray for the first time. Though it loses a ton of its impact for (a) not being on IMAX (because my imaginary movie-loving girlfriend says size matters :cry: ) and (b) "Baraka" & "Samsara" building on what it started, "Chronos" is nevertheless 45 minutes of riveting images and photography of nature (natural and man-made) that don't add up to a satisfying whole but are cool and riveting while they last. The sped-up image of a high tide filling up the surroundings of a Normady abbey and St. Peter's Cathedral lighting up are amazing, but a Park Ave. shot early on is so out-of-place it feels like a hole plugged from later in the film, when some aggressive synth tunes over Grand Central footage hammers the 'human ant farm' motif stridently. Lacking (a) the visual grace and creative composition Fricke would go on to master or (b) Godfrey Reggio's ability to push an overall thematic through line from start to finish, "Chronos" is like hotel coffee: overpriced for what you're paying for it, but still good-tasting coffee.

Zack Snyder's MAN OF STEEL (2013) in theaters for the first time. I hated this movie. I hated the music, I hated the production design (looks like "Immortal" leftover sets/CG effects), I hated Jor-El and 'Pa Kent (Russell and Costner delivering watered-down versions of their earlier hit roles), I hated the villains (Michael Shannon takes up to '11' yet doesn't achieve 1/10th what Terence Stamp did by just raising an eyebrow), I hated Supes' and Lois' strained relationship, I hated wasting time seeing if Perry White and his lackeys would survive (like we'd been given a flying fart of a reason to care) and I hated Zack Snyder making the only superhero movie I can remember where the entire reason for thousands of people dying and billions of dollars worth of destruction was the hero's sole existence in this universe. And yet I can see why someone frustrated with the previous "Superman" movies (and didn't grow-up with the attachment many of us had toward Chris Reeve, Dick Donner, the John Williams score or the quirky slapstick take on Lex Luthor) would gravitate toward the appeal of seeing outer space Gods rumbling on Earth, and how the ripples of those rumbles would wipe out people and buildings like the weaklings we'd be in that equation. When these Gods punch humans into blurred blood spots for PG-13 bucks though I completely check out.

Gore Verbinski's THE LONE RANGER (2013) in theaters for the first time. When I saw this I was shocked it wasn't anywhere near the disaster the reviews and press were making it out to be. It's this year's "John Carter" (Disney sure knows how to pick 'em): an expensive and somewhat flawed movie that is nevertheless fun and makes you think afterwards. The main action piece toward the end, when The William Tell overture kicks in, is the most fun I've had in the movies this year. I was literally covering my jaw hiding the biggest mouth-wide-open grin I couldn't contain at what I was watching and feeling, that 'I'm a 10 year-old!' feeling you get when you watch "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for the first time. It's a sharp contrast with "Man of Steel," which was the least fun time I've had in a movie theater this year.

Since I recently saw Verbinski's "Pirates" trilogy for the first time this feels like a continuation/expansion of that series, with all the good (intelligent and smart writing with a ton of little callbacks that are scattered and come back later to pay off big time) and bad (seriously, who didn't see the twist about who the bad guy is coming from the first reel?) such legacy entails. If "The Lone Ranger" is guilty of anything it might be hubris by Depp, Bruckheimer, Verbinski, Rossio, Elliott & Co. of assuming they could manufacture "Pirates" magic at will. They work really hard at it and the end result is a fun movie, but one that feels like a rerun of better movies ("Curse of the Black Pearl") weighed down by the shortcuts and bloat of others ("At World's End"). In a summer in which every other movie seems hell-bent on killing and slaughtering people by the thousands (including this one), I'll take the Disney movie that at least is bending over backwards to try to entertain me over the one's passing bloodless massacres as entertainment. "The Lone Ranger" is a blast.

Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM (2013) in theaters for the first time. Is it me or this looks/feels like the most expensive videogame CGI cut scene ever made being passed off as a movie? I expect much more from Del Toro than fan service filmmaking, which anyone that has ever watched "Robotek" or played a "Gundam" videogame will appreciate but not be the least bit challenged or pushed beyond the comfort zone of blockbuster familiarity. Charlie Hunnam is such a charisma-free leading man he makes Idris Elba (delivering a rare-for-him phoning-it-in performance that still manages to be the best thing about the flick) and the comic relief guys (who suck and are not funny) seem like master thespians. When the CGI battles take over the flick is brain-dead fun, but so is watching cats play music on YouTube (and didn't cost $150 million to make).
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Sun Sep 15, 2013 1:02 pm

It was 9pm on Saturday night and I was not looking for anything sophisticated. That's my excuse for sitting through "Battle for Los Angeles" (2011) apart from the bits I missed flicking over every now again to BBC1 to watch highlights of Saturday's football. "War of the Worlds-meets-Independence Day-meets-Black Hawk Down" is the most succinct summary I can think of. It would be churlish to complain - it's just a mindless action film with no effort towards interesting dialogue, plot or characterisation - and I have a soft spot for this kind of nonsense. Nonetheless,from some entertainingly disparaging reviews, I feel compelled to quote a snippet (below) which tickled me from one review. I am sure you can guess how the film ends, but just in case you don't here is a [SPOILER ALERT}.

"I don't want to spoiler alert you, but Team America wins. Shocking, I know. Yet again, an apparently invincible force that's capable of mass transit space travel boasting other world technology of incredible force is beaten by a ragtag team of lead-shifting grunts with letters for their wives tucked in their back pockets. (*salutes*)"
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby mavrach » Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:00 pm

BTW J.M., they get mad at me in the Facebook group when I attempt your tread titles :cry:
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:39 pm

It seems to me that every time I see a film made in the last five years, I could almost wheel out the same review: interesting premise, but made with appalling disregard for construction of plot and depiction of characters. To this list add Limitless (2011). I really can't be bothered to list the glaring inconsistencies, implausibilities, non-sequiturs and shaggy dog storylines in this film; they are legion. Furthermore, the director seems not to have made up his mind whether Limitless is a comedy, a thriller or a morality tale, and it ends up being none of the above as a result. It is such a pity that modern film makers are so taken with cinematography that working on the plot, dialogue and characters appears to be an afterthought or an annoying inconvenience.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:21 am

mavrach wrote:BTW J.M., they get mad at me in the Facebook group when I attempt your tread titles :cry:


Philistines! ;-)
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Paul Kile » Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:52 am

Polynikes wrote:It seems to me that every time I see a film made in the last five years, I could almost wheel out the same review: interesting premise, but made with appalling disregard for construction of plot and depiction of characters. To this list add Limitless (2011). I really can't be bothered to list the glaring inconsistencies, implausibilities, non-sequiturs and shaggy dog storylines in this film; they are legion. Furthermore, the director seems not to have made up his mind whether Limitless is a comedy, a thriller or a morality tale, and it ends up being none of the above as a result. It is such a pity that modern film makers are so taken with cinematography that working on the plot, dialogue and characters appears to be an afterthought or an annoying inconvenience.


You make a good point. I would add another common failing of movies in the last few years. Why do so many of them lack character development or else depict the characters as uniformly disagreeable? I think it all started for me with The Blair Witch Project. I found myself looking forward to the character's demise because they were all so irritating. Another movie that showed this was the awful remake of The Flight of the Phoenix. There were some characters who died part way through the film that caused me to simply shrug my shoulders. Those characters were so poorly developed that I just didn't care if they died.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:38 am

Jumper (2008). I regret to have to report that this is another example of a film which fails to develop an interesting idea. I thought it showed some promise during the first half, but the makers did not seem to know where to take it after that and the second half is a confused mess with a conclusion seemingly concocted to leave open the possibility of a sequel, thereby avoiding the problem of having to find a considered and satisfying ending. It is all very well to try to inject pace into a film, but here I felt that the frenetic/frantic style appeared to be designed to make up for weakness in terms of story, thought and character development. However, I was surprised to read that Rotten Tomatoes makes reference to "lacklustre special effects" as I thought these were done rather well. The casting was unimaginative and resulted in wooden acting, except for Jamie Bell who has put in a good performance in any of his work I have seen. As one reviewer pointed out, the film might have been considerably improved if his character had been the main protagonist. I enjoyed the "tourism" locations, and in particular it was nice to get a chance to see inside the Coliseum again without having to go there, without anyone else in sight, and filmed in a beautiful light too (presumably filmed just after first light).
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:59 pm

Whiteout (2009). The Antarctic scenery is lovely to look at. Kate Beckinsale's gorgeous figure is also lovely to look at (thanks to a shamelessly gratuitous shower scene early in the film), and I think her acting is much better than some give her credit for. Otherwise, it is another case of the audience being told "Never mind the story or the plot, enjoy the cinematography". In this case, at least the plot just about holds together, but only because it is so threadbare that there is little scope for it to go astray. Yet something decent could have been made from this. If the bulk of the film had been set after the base had been abandoned for the winter, they could have come up with an enjoyable modern interpretation on the Agatha Christie "Ten Little Indians" theme (using the modern politically correct version of the title). As it was, the story drifted slowly towards an obvious denouement. with no compensation of character development. The Kate Beckinsale character history was as hackneyed as they come. Give me the perhaps outdated but far more watchable Ice Station Zebra any day.

By stark contrast, I did get to see Citizen Kane again over the weekend. It was as fresh as ever. You can't expect a film of that quality to come along more than once in a good few years, but I wish more film makers of the current age would at least aspire to making something as memorable.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:08 pm

THE WIZARD OF OZ: IMAX 3D (1939/2013) in theaters for the first time. Though the 3D makeover was totally unnecessary (and hardly noticeable through most scenes) it was nice to have this classic take over a giant screen and (a) put all the "Oz" film adaptations since '39 (including this year's Sam Raimi one) to shame and (b) remind you why you go to movies in the first place. This time I was particularly impressed by Frank Morgan's multiple-roles schtick and, again, by Bert Lahr's comic relief take as The Cowardly Lion. I still hate with a white-hot burning passion the "comedy" take on the people Dorothy sees though the window as her home is being tossed around by the tornado on her way to Oz, but overall this remains a classic for a reason: It's damn near perfect.

Billy Wilder's THE FORTUNE COOKIE (1966) on MGM-HD for the first time. The first cinematic pairing of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon (two full years before the film adaptation of "The Odd Couple") is also one of Wilder's most audacious and piercing modern-day comedies. The lawsuit-happy US legal system and the crooked lawyers (both ambulance-chasing lone wolves and circle-the-wagons-around big law firms) that exploit loopholes and treat their cases like a football game (mirroring the NFL incident that kick-starts the plot) are all treated by Wilder as just the latest incarnation of our way of life, something as American as apple pie or the many patriotism motifs throughout the film. Lemon's Harry Hinkle is a perfect straight man and unwilling pretend injury victim (Lemon's scenes with Ron Rich's remorseful football player give "The Fortune Cookie" a much needed heart and soul) but Matthau steals the movie (and more than earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) as hilarious, shameless down-and-dirty lawyer Willie Gingrich trying to exploit his brother-in-law's nationally televised accident for big bucks. Harry Halcombe makes an impression as the Poirot-like investigator the law firm hires to try and undermine Gingrich and Hinkle, but Judi West as Harry's opportunistic ex sticks out as not being anywhere the league of her co-stars. Gorgeous B&W anamorphic cinematography (not just for Japanese film masters) also gives "The Fortune Cookie" a visual gloss you didn't know Cleveland could have on its own. ;-)

A BOY AND HIS DOG (1975) on TCM-HD for the first time. I knew nothing about this post-apocalyptic movie going in, and 5 minutes into it (right before the title appeared) I seriously considered bailing out on it after the strange vibe/relationship between female-sniffing puppy Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire) and horny food-finding Vic (a baby-faced Don Johnson) is established. Glad I stuck around though. This movie is bizarre with a capital 'B,' and a great double-bill with "Damnation Alley" in the 'fun' 70's post-apocalypse genre. Writer/director L.Q. Jones' vision (faithful to Harlan Ellison's novella), John Arthur Morrell's cinematography and a wicked sense of humor (loved the names of the US presidents after G. Ford that presided over World Wars 3 and 4 :lol: ) carry the story over some odd choices, like having the last third of the film taking place underground and without Blood around (though Jason Robards no-nonsense performance while wearing face make-up helps carry the "Topeka" portion of the flick). The so-nihilistic-it's-hilarious ending literally dropped my jaw, which is how I imagine audiences first reacted when they saw this flick for the first time back in '75.

Rewatched Alex Cox's SID AND NANCY (1986) on MGM-HD. Five simple words: Roger Deakins is a genius. 8)

Rob Zombie's THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013) on Blu-ray for the first time. I've hated every movie of Zombie's that I have seen except for his remake of "Halloween II," which I respect and admire more than I like. It's not that he's a bad horror filmmaker, I'm just turned off by Rob's infatuation with 'grindhouse meets 70's white trash' settings, characters, photography and overall look/execution. So I was surprised that, even though I didn't like "The Lords of Salem," I once again found myself admiring the directorial skills of Rob as the man shows sings of growing confidence, maturity and expanding his interpretion of horror beyond foul-mouthed trailer park inbreds. Borrowing heavily from Polanski and Lynch, Zombie plunges head-first into supernatural mystery horror territory and marries that, awkwardly, with his eye for nightmarish imagery; the grindhouse photography, thankfully, is jettisoned (save for the desaturated color palette) and replaced with a more polished-but-too-digital-looking normal look. The less you know about "The Lords of Salem" going in the better it plays. What it lacks in jump scares, violence or gore it compensates for with mood and the promise, finally, of better Rob Zombie movies in the future.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013) in theaters for the first time. The chemistry between leads Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley is the real deal in this above-average teen romance film; not a false note or moment when these two are together. My take on the movie is a little different though. I think since this is Sutter's movie (everything happens from his POV and no other character is allowed to have a moment/scene on their own) that his slightly-buzzed, alcohol-fueled perception of the world around him informs his decisions and actions. Basically, whether it's Aimee looking/being glorious or Marcus getting advice from Sutter about how the former should handle the latter's ex-girlfriend (I really liked that scene), it's a distorted-reality view of Sutter's life as he perceives it in his almost perpetual state of drunken stupor. I haven't screamed/jumped in my seat as loudly in a movie as when (blank) happens to Aimee out of nowhere, which is a cheap melodramatic trick that here works because you care so much about these characters.

Gotta say, for what appears to be a romantic teen movie, this is one of the most acutely observed movies about alcoholism (those that drink but also friends and loved one's that tolerate or confront the vice) that doesn't actually spell or says that it is about alcoholism. The closest character that does that is Bob Odenkirk's Dan when he offers Sutter a choice to remain working or not. Kyle Chandler does the best he can with a thankless two-dimensional role (he's really in only three scenes, two of which are very short) but the man has done better work elsewhere. Good flick.

Neil Blomkamp's ELYSIUM (2013) in theaters for the first time. The sophomore jinx hangs like a cloud over Blomkmap's follow-up to his 2009 barn-burner breakthrough film "District 9." There's nothing wrong with "Elysium," but neither its individual parts or the whole seem to add-up to much. A 'been there, done that' sameness (to contemporary Hollywood films more than "District 9") permeates the premise, special effects, execution and acting. Matt Damon comes the closest he has to phoning in his performance, and his co-lead Alicia Braga is oddly tuned into Damon's subdued wave. Sharlto Copley gives his best performance since "District 9" (not a surprise), but Jodie Foster seems to be in an entirely different movie than the one we're watching. These acting and directorial choices result in a film you can't hate because it's too smart and well-made, but you also can't fully love it because you can see the wheels turning and story beats coming as expected (although the absence of a Max-Delacourt showdown we were lead to believe was coming was a total surprise). Everything you expect to happen in "Elysium" happens (except for a super-gory, out-of-nowhere couple of scenes that more than earn the film's 'R' rating) and that's fine because it's well made and has a point to make and noble ideas. Entertaining though? YMMV.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:08 pm

The Hunger Games 2012. This was really for my teenage children, so I was not expecting much, but even allowing for that, it was a poor man's version of Battle Royale meets The Running Man, with a hint of the Athenian tribute to Crete thrown in. I have not read the books, so I don't know whether this was a faithful adaptation, but the film rarely sparked into life and the plot rambled unconvincingly for long periods. The premise behind the games was not properly explained and the build up to the competition was ponderous without offering much in terms of character development, delving deeper into the background of the situation or depicting the mood of the people (none of whom acted as though they were genuinely hungry). I hoped the actual games might spark the film into life, but it merely spluttered from time to time with periods of langour which would have been anathema to the type of reality TV audience which the film was satirising (?). So much was unconvincing. The competitors turned in the blink of an eye from frightened teenagers to macho killers, none of whom displayed the abject fear you might expect to see in such circumstances. Donald Sutherland popped up intermittently mumble things which turned out to have no bearing on the plot (he really does "act" for the pay cheque these days). The organisers seemed to change the rules and back again for no apparent reason; some young man was the love interest in the first part of the film, but then played no part thereafter other than to be seen watching like everyone else. I am guessing that the book dwells on themes such as how a large gap between the very rich and the very poor can lead to dehumanisation, and is meant to act as a parable for society today, but I got no sense of that from the film. It fizzled out with a whimper, and I gather this is the start of a franchise. It is hard to know what kind of sequel you could make to this, but I suspect the target audience of female "wannabe like Katniss" teenagers will happily pay the entrance fee for whatever they come up with.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:33 pm

Last week, I went to Milwuakee to see Cinematic Titanic's riffing of "The Doll Squad". Awful movie, great jokes. I just hope the gang reconsiders this whole pulling the plug idea. Okay, maybe touring is a problem, but can't they just do an occasional live show for special occasions?
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:48 pm

The Ghost (2010). A solid and pretty faithful adaptation of Robert Harris's novel (Harris co-wrote the screenplay), albeit with a slightly different ending. As a result, it has all the strengths and weaknesses of the novel. Although the story is clunky in some aspects, this is better than the average mindless shoot-em-up thriller. Ewan MacGregor's London accent is risible, and neither he nor Pierce Brosnan are arresting in their roles, but Kim Cattrall turns in a decent performance. However, far and away the best performance comes from Olivia Williams who is outstanding as the ex-PM's wife.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:15 pm

The History Boys (2006). Contains some wonderful one-liners. I would be interested to read what those beyond the shores of Great Britain make of this film.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:14 pm

Well, until someone else posts, I shall talk to myself in this dark and lonely place.....

The Reader (2008). A film which garlanded much critical praise, but it left me feeling uncomfortable (and not in a good way), which may be as much a criticism of the book as it is of the film. It is very hard to involve the Holocaust in films or novels without in some way trivialising or diminishing the terrible evil, but some films and novels have avoided doing so. However, the blending of coming of age eroticism, "tasteful"/"respectable" soft porn and middle class angst on the one hand, with the death camps and Holocaust guilt on the other in The Readerfelt meretricious to me. (Did the considerable amount of Kate Winslet nudity scenes help us learn something about her character's/her lover's/our understanding of the deeper issues the film purports to deal with? Methinks not). Bruno Ganz gave an excellent performance, and Kate Winslet and the rest of the cast acted well for the most part, but my reaction during and afterwards was that the film was shallow, to put it kindly. In the shadow of the events forming the background (events which are skated over rapidly in the court room scenes), it seems to trite to immerse oneself in themes such as the sadness of illiteracy, and how a middle class schoolboy's emotional life has been warped by an affair with an older woman.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:29 pm

2012 (2009). The special effects are impressive, but there are only so many the mind can take and they pall long before the end of what is an unutterably tedious and dreadful film which reaches new lows in storyline and characters. An end of the world movie offers an opportunity to go into Nevil Shute "On The Beach" territory and explore how people might react to apocalypse. This film takes the alternative tired Hollywood route of "don't worry about billions dying a horrible death, because the cute kids and the dog get saved and the disorganised but essentially loveable actor wins back his girl". Had I known before I started watching that this was a Roland Emmerich film, I might have guessed it would be The Day After Tomorrow revisited. John Cusack and the rest of the cast do their acting best to try to rescue this turkey, but it is a hopeless mission. It is especially sad to see an actor of the calibre of Chiwetel Ejiofor descending to this level of tripe.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Mach6 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:11 am

A Good Day to Die Hard Extended Cut (Blu Ray): I hated the theatrical version so almost anything was going to be an improvement. As I heard, Winstead’s Lucy McClane got edited out. She was a non-factor anyway so I didn’t miss her & it actually got rid of the most cringe worthy moments like her phone conversion to daddy McClane during the big car chase. The big Armored Truck chase has a few more scenes & alternate shots (& no stupid, painfully unfunny phone conservations) to make it flow better. There’s also a funny bit with what McClane & son find in some Russian gangsters’ car trunks. At least, the extra stuff makes it feel less rushed. Jai Courtney was OK as McClane’s son. He’s believable in the action scenes but the script gives him little to work with the “I hate my dad” angle. Bruce Willis is just playing cranky Bruce Willis & he still came off unlikable & unfunny. They didn’t bother to cut all the awful “I’m on f***** vacation” jokes. Just like in Man of Steel, I still don’t like good guys who don’t seem to care about the amount of damage & deaths they’re causing. McClane saying “Sorry!” after he drives over innocent civilians ‘cars & causing a few crashes doesn’t cut it for me. The bad guys and girls are forgettable. Instead of the big double cross at the end, they should've stuck with one main villain throughout the whole thing.

The best thing I can say about Director John Moore is that he filmed most of the action using real vehicles & stunts with little CGI until the big finale. The action is over-the-top, but is not as ridiculous as Live Free or Die Hard. I’m fine with Moore being a 2nd unit action director but he has no business or the skill to be in charge of big budget movies. The extended cut gives us a big dumb action movie with some good set pieces and little else. An OK or Mediocre Day to Die Hard.

The Escape Plan: I had a lot of fun watching Stallone & Arnold in an action flick with more brains than they are usually in. It’s great to see that Arnold has shaken off all the rust from Expendables 2 (which I thought he was painful to watch) & not resorting to cheesy one-lines until the very end. There’s no hipster irony or self-parody here. Technically, Stallone gets more screen time, but Arnold clearly had a better performance. The major problem I have is there isn’t a lot of action until the finale. Maybe because of their age, the action is limited & the plot focuses more on how Stallone’s character breaks out of these prisons. Jim Caviezel dumps his super serious acting routine & gets to camp it up as the ruthless warden. Escape Plan isn’t great but it was solid. Due to the poor box office, this will be one of the last times to see Arnold & Sly on the big screen. It’s a shame because they have an easy chemistry.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby mavrach » Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:48 am

Say Anything - This sort of movie isn't normally my cup of tea, but I completely connected with the characters. I assumed it was going to be a light 80's romcom, but it was much more grounded in reality than I expected.

Oh and the curmudgeon in me expected the scene with Cusack holding the boombox over his head to be a massive ending spoiler, where he romantically gets the girl back by blasting a meaningful song outside her window. Thankfully that's just a buildup in the third act.


The Ghost and the Darkness - I'd seen this in the theaters and maybe twice on VHS. It's another where I retroactively assumed it would be cheeseball crap if I were to return to it. Nope, it's a great adventure story that straddles the line between serious and fun. I'm debating whether or not Michael Douglass was miscast as the great white hunter, but overall I'm glad I rewatched it.


Flesh + Blood - Very interesting, and sidesteps most of the plot points that you'd expect out of a medieval adventure movie. There are reminders that the "heroes" aren't all good (they rape and pillage) and the "villains" aren't all bad (the principal villain is an advocate of science and progressive thinking). In the end it's so mixed that there are two mixed sides that are in conflict. Also very controlled by Paul Verhoeven. It's violent but not as crazily excessive as he tended to get, though this was only his first US production.



Olympus Has Fallen - Hmm, a Die Hard clone. I thought those all had their day in the mid 90's. I just wish I could have fun with a stupid action movie like this the same way that I could when I was in my teens. I would've eaten this up back then. Today, not so much.


Malcolm X - A 200-minute biopic sounded like a dreary way to spend my afternoon, but it had the heart to bring the story to life as opposed to merely re-telling its events. Actually the first third plays like a gangster flick, and I was enjoying it on that level with some confusion of how this was supposed to be the movie about Malcolm X. BTW I could understand why you might feel like Denzel was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar.



When a Stranger Calls - The first 20 minutes in itself was basically a standalone short horror film that was perfectly suspenseful, and I heartily recommend it to anybody. If you've heard of this movie, it's because of this part. At the point where she realized she was in danger, alone in the house, my upstairs neighbor started walking heavily and shook the apartment, and I almost shit myself.

However, the rest of the movie was like an inferior sequel that couldn't capture the magic of the first movie.

I read up a little on this and apparently it was filmed as a short 20-minute movie which was expanded. That would explain its weird structure. Honestly, just keep it at 20 minutes. It's not feature length but as a short it's more effective than most horror movies. I'm tempted to buy the DVD and pretend the rest of the movie doesn't exist. Or make it part of an anthology or something. It could be the "good" entry of an anthology that people remember, like the fetish doll one in Trilogy of Terror.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby tucco » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:25 pm

Mavrach, do you mean the original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, or the remake ....thanx!

I always assumed that that movie was a ripoff of BLACK CHRISTMAS in a way, the calls, coming from inside the house. I definitely will give it a whirl, now that you endorsed the first part of it!
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby mavrach » Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:40 am

tucco wrote:Mavrach, do you mean the original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, or the remake ....thanx!

I always assumed that that movie was a ripoff of BLACK CHRISTMAS in a way, the calls, coming from inside the house. I definitely will give it a whirl, now that you endorsed the first part of it!


Sorry, the original. Yeah, I absolutely recommend it at least for the first part. I still haven't seen Black Christmas so I can't comment on that.

I've heard the remake isn't so hot, though I'd be interested to see how something like this is adapted to the cell phone era. And supposedly it's a remake of the first 20 minutes of the original, expanded into a full movie.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:09 am

No Country for Old Men (2007). A film which gathered plaudits from both professional and amateur critics alike - which astonishes me. I remember being very impressed by Miller’s Crossing many years ago, but to me, No Country for Old Men was a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. I respect the craft in the film. I understand that they spend nearly two hours setting up a classic thriller situation, building towards a final confrontation between the two protagonists, only to subvert the convention, which I gather is faithful to the novel on which the film is based (I have not read the book). Some (most) reviewers found this clever and loved it; I found it unsatisfying and irritating. A film does not need to have all the plot strings neatly tied by the end, and it can work with a surprise ending. Some films can work as philosophical reflections, promoting ideas based on events without a thrill-a-minute storyline ; at least you know what you are getting as they go along. No Country for Old Men left me with the feeling that the Coen brothers were laughing all the way to the bank and congratulating themselves on their own genius. "Let's tease the audience by pretending we are making a stylish thriller which is in fact a shaggy dog story, chuck in some meandering cod philosophy on the nature of change, randomness, nihilism etc. and people will say, "Oh, what brilliant film makers they are, undermining the thriller/Western genres like that". To me, it is a film without a message other than “Look at us – how brilliant we are”.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Dan Mancini » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:52 pm

mavrach wrote:
tucco wrote:I always assumed that that movie was a ripoff of BLACK CHRISTMAS in a way, the calls, coming from inside the house. I definitely will give it a whirl, now that you endorsed the first part of it!


Sorry, the original. Yeah, I absolutely recommend it at least for the first part. I still haven't seen Black Christmas so I can't comment on that.

When a Stranger Calls definitely ripped off Black Christmas. See BC . . . immediately. It's a great little horror flick.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Polynikes » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:26 pm

Premonition (2007). A film which is based on a notion explored in many novels and films: should you (and if you can, how) change the future if you know what is going to occur? I thought Premonition started promisingly with an interesting air of mystery and intrigue, but the story was muddled, too long and it fell away to a very obvious conclusion, which failed to address satisfactorily the internal inconsistencies of the rest of the film. It is a difficult theme to handle, and perhaps the most effective way is to avoid philosophical musings and to treat it as a straightforwardly enjoyable "how do we get out of this situation?" exercise, as in Paycheck , Source Code or Twelve Monkeys. Premonition tries to be more earnest on an emotional and spiritual level, but it is not clear what it is being earnest about and it ends up as a confused offering.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Ash22 » Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:44 pm

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby J.M. Vargas » Sun Dec 22, 2013 6:57 am

Carl Theodore Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) on TCM-HD. What else can be said about this? It's freaking mesmerizing, gripping and compelling from start to finish, with Maria Falconetti's unflattering close-ups tag-teaming with Dreyer's imposing sets (only glimpsed at behind the well-cast priests that make hiss-worthy villains) to heighten the oppresiveness of the little person being crushed by the establishment. The soundtrack currently attached to the silent print in circulation (TCM, Criterion, etc.) could use a little less modern touches, but it packs an emotional wallop alongside the power of the story and Falconetti's performance.

William Cameron Menzies' THINGS TO COME (1936) on TCM-HD for the first time. The crazy zombie London mob scenes in Tobe Hooper's "Lifeforce" and the whole second act of "WALL-E" make more sense to me now. They were tributes of-sorts to just some of the many technically stunning scenes and displays of SFX cunning in this speculative science fiction action flick that not only predicted the then-incoming Nazi-led World War threat, but also the space race, the HDTV (transparent and thinner) and every form of subtlety-free speculative B&W-view-of-the-world 100 years into the then-future as imagined by H.G Wells. Wells' view of the world, then-present and imagined-future, is both "Things To Come's" main asset and constant flaw. It holds the movie to some serious troubling ethical ideas (endorsement of tyrannical-but-benevolent fascism) but allows the narrative to have a bigger scope than your typical campy sci-fi flick. Being a British product means the emphasis is more on science than fiction, giving "Things To Come" the feel of a 50's American 'B' flick propped much higher by the caliber of the ideas it tackles ('the wondering sickness') and strong across-the-board acting bench (Ralph Richardson steals the show as a Napoleon-like small-potato "boss"). Not my personal cup of tea (Raymond Massey's speechifying gets really tiresome by the third act), "Things To Come" is nevertheless a fascinating time capsule of blockbuster-minded literary adaptation cinema long before those concepts became the norm.

Robert Bresson's PICKPOCKET (1959) on TCM-HD for the first time. Every new Bresson movie I see feels like both an entry into a previously-unseen cinematic universe and a return to the familiar, comforting 'mise en scène' of a master director in complete control of the medium. Seemingly about the petty thefts of small time crook Michel (Martin LaSalle) and the cronies/colleagues he befriends while pulling their jobs around Paris, the film's short 75 min. running time packs quite an arc for Michel that culminates into an atypical-for-Bresson conclusion that not only feels earned but redemptive without being mawkish. Jean Pélégri (as a kind police inspector) and Marika Green (as the neighbor of Michel's mother) bring a smidgen more humanity to their supporting roles than the rest of the wooden-as-LaSalle actors playing Michel's colleagues and relatives. Michel's flat inner-monologues in "Pickpocket" narrating in past-tense the events we're witnessing ultimately ties the disparate stories/characters together into a stirring cinematic portrayal of a life lived and, potentially, turned around by both predictable and unexpected turns of events. Repeat viewings can only further enhance a good first impression of this being another Bresson masterpiece.

Abel Ferrara's MS. 45 (1981) at NYC's IFC Center. I remember seeing this at 3AM in the early 90's on USA Network's "Up All Night" block (when the network showed stuff like "The Evil Dead" uncut since it was so late even Rhonda and Gilbert had gone home). So, 20 years later, imagine my surprise to find out this grindhouse-to-its-core rape revenge fantasy flick packs a lot more underneath its low-budget surface than early 80's Gotham griminess. Zoë Lund's face (like Falconetti's in the aforementioned "The Passion of Joan of Arc") traces the character's arc from victim to not-so-unwilling vigilante, which compensates for the horrible Z-grade acting from pretty much the entire cast (including Ferrara as the rapist that kick-starts the whole thing). The "Carrie"-inspired finale is a thing of beauty, and an appropriate end to both a film and compelling lead performance by Zoë that is begging for rediscovery.

Pete Travis' DREDD 3D (2012) on 3D Blu-ray for the first time. I had my expectations set low for this attempt to reboot a failed comic book franchise. The best thing about "Dredd" is that the bar set by Sly Stallone's 1995 "Judge Dredd" has been easily cleared and the build-up work for potential sequels to follow already set. Karl Urban's square jaw, along with the square jaws of all the other Judges (was there a South African casting person for jaws hired?), are appropriately square and manly while the women get to at least try to emote their supporting (Olivia Thirlby's Anderson) and villainous roles (Lena Heady's Ma-Ma) with very mixed results. And though he doesn't have a noticeable style worth singling at least Pete Travis uses the movie's numerous slow-motion not just for show but to visualize the effects of the drugs that the Ma-Ma clan are trying to push. "Dredd's" main problem is that it's totally derivative from last year's "The Raid" and, given the wealth of source material, comes across as a poor man's attempt to bypass the need for an origin story by pulling an already-on-the-job "Batman"-type origin. Unlike that well-known popular character though, Judge Dredd isn't too well known and needed more than a crossover between the plots of "Apleseed" and "The Raid" to gain an identity with which to spring forward as a franchise.

Mikael Håfström's ESCAPE PLAN (2012) in theaters for the first time. Pretty much agree with Mach6's earlier thoughts. After the silliness of "The Expendables" it's refreshing to see old action pros like Stallone and Schwarzenegger play to their current strengths as elder statements and keep the action proceedings grounded (within the genre) while letting Vincent D'Onofrio and Jim Caviezel ham it up with the cheese. Remembering the heyday of these action heavyweights in their individual projects though (can you imagine an 80's action flick teaming 'Ahnuld' and Sly in their prime? Swoon!) inevitably lends "Escape Plan" the feel of wet powder going off with only sporadic fireworks, mostly at the very end. It's too slow a burn for too fleeting a payoff. Between this, Arnold's "The Last Stand" and the remake of "Bullet in the Head" with Stallone "Escape Plan" is the better film precisely because of the chemistry between them, but also the most disappointing given how much better it could have been or accepted by the masses if it had been a better film than it is.

Spike Lee's OLDBOY (2013) in theaters for the first time. The ending of this American version easily trumps Chan-wook Park's original by far (my opinion), but other than that it's a fool's errand attempt to remake something that was done pretty much to perfection the first time around. If you've seen the original "Oldboy" then you can pretty much know what's coming, so you're left admiring the stylish swings at bat Spike Lee tries out with the material. Unlike "Let Me In" though (which is clearly an inferior cousin to the trangressive-but-powerful "Let The Right One In") I could confidently recommend this remake to someone that avoids subtitled foreign movies and feel they'd still get the core and essence of classic "Oldboy" without too drastic a watered-down American neutering. This is an orphan movie though, abandoned by its creators and financiers while rejected outright by fans of the original and the public at large. And like most orphans, there's a resentment and anger built into the DNA of "Oldboy" that translates well to the story being told and the type of characters (or in Sam Jackson's case, caricature) we're witnessing.

I didn't hate Sharlto Copley as much as most people seem to, mostly because a movie with a premise this outlandish almost requires the bad guy to be a bigger-than-life wacko. In the original "Oldboy" Yoo Ji-tae chose to play it cold and detached, and in the remake Copley goes for the drama queen approach. I prefer the former but the latter also works for me because it's such a contrast to the way Josh Brolin (who basically carries the movie on his lone shoulders and succeeds at making you care and root for his rotten bastard of a loathsome character) plays it. I do hope Spike gets to release a director's cut because, more than the stylish touches, I just want to see more of Brolin's performance. Elizabeth Olsen is fine but, unlike the vulnerability and repressed fear she showed in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," here she's literally walking through her role not knowing much and thus depriving the actress of a chance to show her skills.
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Re: I said, FALL (WATCHING THREAD), huh Good God, y'all!

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:12 pm

Well, I watched both "The Day of the Doctor" and "The Time of the Doctor" on BBC America, as well as the prequel mini-sodes "Night of the Doctor" and "The Last Day" on YouTube.

I was a bit lost on a few points, as I'd drifted away from "Doctor Who" early in the Tennant era (Rose Tyler's looooooooong departure scene threw me off) and had seen it only once in a while since. So, I had to pretty much go with the flow. That said, I thought things turned out OK.

Yes, some of the stuff between Smith and Tennant in DotD got a bit goofy. But when things got serious, it worked fine. I particularly liked John Hurt as the War Doctor, and the surprise appearance by the Curator was great. As for TotD, that worked fine as a departure story for Matt Smith, with a really spectacular finish followed by a quiet coda. There were also a number of points where I was genuinely fooled. And Smith's last words before regen weren't, "I don't want to go!", thank Heavens.

As for the mini-sodes, I preferred NotD over "Last Day", mainly because it was great to see Paul McGann on camera again as the Doctor, if only briefly. It was very deeply sad at the end, though.

I suppose now I'll have to play catch-up until Peter Cipaldi's shows start up, sometime next year.
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