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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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From the Last 25 Years


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#1 LawrenceA

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 02:18 PM

Alien: Covenant (2017) - Director Ridley Scott helms this sci-fi misfire, a direct sequel to 2012's Prometheus and the 8th overall Alien movie. In the year 2104, the colony spaceship Covenant is headed for a new planet. It has dozens of colonists in deep sleep hibernation, as well as a ship's crew of around 10. The ship is largely self-maintained, but is assisted by the android Walter (Michael Fassbender), who is forced to awaken the crew after a mishap. They soon receive a distress call and decide to check it out, finding an alien world with a dead civilization, as well as the android David (also Fassbender) who went missing with the ship Prometheus ten years earlier. But as a mysterious illness breaks out among the crew, and David begins acting very peculiar, the crew of the Covenant find themselves in a fight for their lives. Also starring Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, and cameos from Guy Pearce, James Franco, and Noomi Rapace.

 

All three films in this series that Scott has helmed have featured androids as threats as much if not moreso than aliens. This movie is really all about Fassbender, who I'm sure enjoyed the dual role, imbuing the two androids with enough differences to make them distinct. But I, and seemingly most of the rest of the potential audience, was hoping for more alien and less android. While the creature from the original films is still scary and visually interesting (when it's not too glossy via CGI), I had hoped for much more about the Engineers, the mysterious alien race partially explored in Prometheus and whose home planet we visit here. But they, along with their culture and civilization, are reduced to nothing in a few short moments.

 

Waterston and McBride make for more believable blue-collar type workers (which is keeping in tone with the original 1979 film), but their characters are largely unexplored, while Crudup, as the new captain raised in rank after a tragedy, gets stuck with a character meant to be unlikable due to his religious beliefs. That's a mistake in my opinion, although it would have been fine if they had found a way to tie his beliefs in with the notions of godhood discussed by the androids. I also had problems with other aspects of the script, namely the routinely stupid decisions these purported professionals make, the total lack of bio-hazard awareness or protections while exploring an alien world for the first time, and a stupid insistence on having multiple characters smoke. How likely would smokers be asked to join a space program now, let alone in a hundred years? This is a very underwhelming viewing experience.   6/10

 

Source: Blu-Ray

 

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#2 LawrenceA

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:16 PM

Shin Godzilla (2016) - Japanese reboot of the venerable giant monster series. A mysterious creature emerges from Tokyo Bay and, after moving onshore, lays waste to the city. Scientists, military personnel, and government agencies must cooperate to find a way to stop the creature, which they name Godzilla after a local legend, and which has the ability to quickly evolve itself, becoming larger and stronger. Featuring Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara, Jun Kunimura, and Shin'ya Tsukamoto.

 

After the successful American Godzilla remake in 2014, the producers at Toho, Godzilla's original home, decided to reboot the series again themselves. The result is a seriously mixed bag. The movie tries to be a critique of governmental and bureaucratic inefficiency, particularly in the wake of the real-life Fukushima Nuclear disaster.  In movie terms, this translates into endless scenes of  dozens of characters talking in various drab conference rooms, with rapid-fire subtitles identifying everyone by name and job description. By the end of the film, you realize that a good 90 minutes or more of the 120 minute running time was taken up with bland discussions. Another reason for this over-reliance on dialogue over action may be the decision to render Godzilla via CGI, an expensive prospect even for the top US movie studios, and even more so for the cash-strapped Japanese film industry. When the creature is onscreen, it generally looks good, but it lacks any personality. All-in-all, I'd have to call this one a disappointment. By the way, "Shin" in the title is a Japanese word that can mean "true" or "god".   6/10

 

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#3 LawrenceA

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 09:13 PM

Logan - Brutal, spare, emotional superhero movie that transcends the genre. Set in a future time when most of mutantkind is dead, and no new mutants have been born in 25 years, the story finds Logan (Hugh Jackman), the former X-Man named Wolverine, beaten and broken, a sick drunk driving a limo for money. He lives out in the isolated desert with mutant-finder Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is wracked with dementia and kept heavily medicated, lest his psychic powers run amok and kill everyone around them. Logan's wretched existence is upended when he is forced to take charge of a mysterious little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who is being hunted by a band of cybernetic mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). As Logan, Laura and Xavier take to the road on a cross country journey to find sanctuary, our hero has one last shot at redemption. Also featuring Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

 

Jackman has been playing the Wolverine character for the past 17 years, across 9 movies, and he could have not asked for a better send-off for his take on the role. This is quite unlike most superhero movies. It's violent, profanity-laden and often quite bleak. It's also very character driven, with perhaps the best character moments in any film of the genre. It also packs an emotional wallop, more than once during its 137 minute running time, and these moments are earned. Jackman, Stewart and Keen are all terrific, with Jackman and Stewart both giving perhaps their best big-screen performances to date. I'm not usually a fan of kids in movies, but Keen is wonderful, and she and the script never stoop to cute-kid theatrics. The direction by James Mangold is on-point, as is the score from Marco Beltrami. I wouldn't quite call this the best superhero movie, but it's pretty damn close. Recommended.   8/10

 

This was my final 2017 movie.

 

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#4 LawrenceA

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 06:06 PM

Kong: Skull Island - Bombastic giant monster movie from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Set in 1973, the story follows the efforts of the Monarch group, in the person of Bill Randa (John Goodman), to explore a mysterious location in the South Pacific known as Skull Island, a place where ships and aircraft have gone missing for decades. Randa and his scientific team are escorted by a helicopter squadron commanded by Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a decorated combat vet still seething over the recent announcement of the withdrawal from Vietnam. Randa hires British scout and survivalist James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to help get everyone through the unknown jungle terrain safely. They are also accompanied by noted war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Upon arrival at the island, though, they are met by Kong, a 100-foot-tall ape that immediately decimates the helicopter squadron, spreading the survivors across the island. It becomes a race against time to get to the proper location, as the window for rescue is very short, and the island is inhabited by much more than Kong... Also starring John C. Reilly as a WW2 pilot who has been stranded on the island since '44, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Jason Mitchell, Jing Tian, Thomas Mann, Richard Jenkins, and Toby Kebbell.

 

There seems to be two scripts merged together here: one is a fun multi-character adventure movie set in an exotic location with a variety of bizarre creatures; the other is a grim allegorical look at American militarism in the Third World and its unintended consequences. Although I think either, if handled well, could be a compelling film, in this one I much preferred the former to the latter. Maybe it was Jackson's Captain Ahab-like characterization that grew old for me, but I liked the largely non-military characters and their camaraderie on one side of the island to the war-movie cliche soldiers on the other side. And director Vogt-Roberts seems to have watched plenty of Vietnam movies in preparation, as savvy viewers will notice bits lifted from PlatoonFull Metal Jacket, and most notably, Apocalypse Now. The creature work is good, with interesting designs and flawless CGI. And while the cast does a decent job, John C. Reilly easily steals every scene he's in. This was intended as the second installment in Warner Brothers "MonsterVerse" series, after the 2014 Godzilla reboot, and there's a post-credits "stinger" scene that hints at monsters to come.   7/10

 

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#5 LawrenceA

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 02:25 PM

T2 Trainspotting - Director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge, and the entire cast reunite after 20 years for this follow-up to the cult classic look at Scottish junkies and lowlifes. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh after 20 years of living abroad, having cheated his former friends out of thousands of pounds in cash. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is at the end of his rope, having continued to struggle with heroin addiction over the years. Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) now runs a fleapit pub when he's not attempting blackmail schemes with his much younger girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). And Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving prison time with no hope of parole anytime soon, so he sets about securing his own release. When the four meet up again, everyone's life during the interim will be examined, with old animosities and old friendships being revisited. Also featuring Shirley Henderson, James Cosmo, and Kelly MacDonald.

 

Director Boyle hasn't lost his sense of cinematic style, and this nearly manages to capture the manic energy of the original. But if the film is a bit slower, that fits with the themes of aging and reflection. The film is an exercise in nostalgia, of sorts, and it embraces this fact by not only featuring copious clips from the original film, but also by having the characters address how much time they spend on the past, and how much the past hangs over them. All four leads are terrific, and have aged well. The script is often hilarious, and the editing and soundtrack are spot-on. This is one of the few sequels to nearly match the original, and is truly a worthy companion piece. Recommended.   8/10

 

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#6 LawrenceA

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 10:59 PM

Get Out - Suspense thriller with dashes of social commentary from writer-director Jordan Peele. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black NYC photographer. His white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) has invited him upstate the the suburbs to meet her parents. Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) seem like nice people, and they welcome Chris with open arms, but as the weekend continues, Chris begins to feel that something isn't quite right, especially concerning the black house servants. Also featuring Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, and Stephen Root.

 

This made quite a splash when it was released earlier this year, becoming a surprise smash hit and winning over the critics as well. It works as a thriller for the most part, although director Peele, best known for his TV comedy work, lets the comic-relief character played by Howery go on a bit too long. The satire of race relations in America is present, but I honestly expected it to be a bit sharper, and felt the script could have had more bite in that regard. But then, maybe it wouldn't have had as broad of an appeal as it did.   7/10

 

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#7 LawrenceA

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 07:26 PM

The LEGO Batman Movie - Animated comedy spin-off from the hit 2014 LEGO movie. The story concerns Batman (Voice of Will Arnett) dealing with disruptions in his life, including newly adopted son Dick Grayson aka Robin (v: Michael Cera), new Gotham Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (v: Rosario Dawson), and Bruce Wayne's meddlesome butler Alfred (v: Ralph Fiennes). Batman's arch-nemesis the Joker (v: Zach Galifianakis) also conspires to break the universe's greatest villains out of the Phantom Zone in an attempt to take over Gotham once and for all. Also featuring the voices of Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O'Brien, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Zoe Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome, Seth Green, Eddie Izzard, Jonah Hill, Jemaine Clement, Ellie Kemper, Adam Devine, Hector Elizondo, Mariah Carey, and Channing Tatum as Superman.

 

Chock full of rapid-fire cultural references, not only from the full gamut of the Batman mythos, including the comic books, previous films and TV series, but also properties as disparate as Harry Potter, King Kong, Doctor Who, and Lord of the Rings, this is definitely one that will reward repeat viewing. The jokes come fast and furious, and while not all work, enough do to make this an enjoyably funny time.   7/10

 

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#8 LawrenceA

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 05:58 PM

Song to Song - Meditation on love and music from writer-director Terrence Malick. Starting out with a love triangle between music exec Cook (Michael Fassbender), his secretary and aspiring musician Faye (Rooney Mara), and songwriter BV (Ryan Gosling), the film dreamily touches on other loves that come and go among the three, including a sad waitress (Natalie Portman), a beautiful Frenchwoman (Berenice Marlohe), and an older woman (Cate Blanchett). Also featuring Holly Hunter, Lykke Li, Linda Emond, Tom Sturridge, and Val Kilmer.

 

The earliest filming on this occurred back in 2012 at the Austin, Texas SXSW music festival. A multitude of music stars past and present have cameos as themselves, including Patti Smith, John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon, Iggy Pop, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire and many more. As is usually the case with Malick's films, much more was shot than what eventually made the final cut, and this time around entire performances from Christian Bale and Benicio Del Toro, among others, are absent. Anyone who has seen Malick's work from the past several years, including Tree of LifeTo the Wonder, or Knight of Cups, will know what to expect here: little to no conventional narrative, lots of aimless wandering down streets and room-to-room through houses, an abundance of "meaningful" looks out of windows or at their co-stars, punctuated with softly-spoken, almost mumbled, narration. The cinematography is gorgeous, as usual, while the performances are a bit mixed, with some performers (Fassbender, Blanchett) running with the improvisational freedom, while occasionally Gosling and Mara look lost. If you're not a fan of Malick's recent style, this will certainly not convert you, but I like it for what it is.   7/10

 

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#9 LawrenceA

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 01:00 PM

John Wick: Chapter 2 - Follow-up to the hit 2014 action flick. Legendary underworld assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is ready to settle back into retirement after the events of the first film, but a knock on his door brings bad news: Italian mafia boss Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in Wick's blood marker, an inviolate oath that Wick must obey. Santino orders the death of his sister (Claudia Gerini), which will also bring more heat down on Wick's head, as does an open contract on Wick's life for $7 million. But Wick didn't gain his reputation for nothing, as the trail of dead in his wake will testify to. Also featuring Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Common, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan, and Franco Nero.

 

When the first film was advertised, I and most others expected it to be another forgettable B action flick. I was happily surprised when it turned out to be one of the best action films in a decade. That film, and this follow-up, were written and directed by stunt men and stunt coordinators who longed for the days of practical stuntwork over CGI mayhem. Subsequently, the action scenes are fantastic. One aspect of the first film's plot is brought to the forefront in this entry, that of the set of rules governing the international criminal underworld, specifically the series of safehouse sanctuaries around the world, masquerading as luxury hotels called The Continental. It takes the film out of the realm of reality and into a kind of satirical fantasy, with killers and gangsters adhering to a rulebook as if they were Old World gentlemen. That aspect is perhaps too emphasized in this movie, and it slows the action down quite a bit in comparison to the first film. This was also clearly intended to be the middle film of a trilogy, and so it doesn't have a resolution, but rather ends on a cliffhanger. This wasn't quite the hit that the first film was, but the odds still look good for a part 3.   7/10

 

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#10 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 11:33 PM

Ghost in the Shell - Live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese manga and anime. In some undefined future where cybernetic enhancements are commonplace, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: a human brain inside of a high-powered robot body. She works for the Defense Department under boss Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) and with partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek) fighting cyber-crimes. Lately they've been tracking a mysterious terrorist named Kuze (Michael Pitt) who seems to be targeting employees of Hanka Robotics, the leading cybernetic firm and the one that built Major. As she gets closer to her quarry, though, flashes of suppressed memories keep appearing, and Major begins to doubt everything she knows. Also featuring Juliette Binoche, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, and Peter Ferdinando.

 

The 1995 animated version of this is a huge cult favorite, and a live-action version has been in the works for the past two decades, under several directors and with many stars attached. This movie, directed by Rupert Sanders, came under immediate scrutiny with the casting of Johansson in the lead, a character that's traditionally been Japanese. The discrepancy is actually addressed in the plot, but that didn't stop a lot of outraged internet chatter in the months leading up to the movie's release, which proved to be a major disappointment, both critically and financially. I didn't think the movie was that bad, although it's not terribly original. The cartoon really wasn't either, though, lifting a lot of its aesthetic from films like Blade Runner and the cyberpunk fiction boom of the 1980s. Johansson is fine in the lead, and Asbaek makes for a likable friend. Screen legend Kitano gets to play his entire role in subtitled Japanese, while Pitt gets some nice work in as the antagonist that's not quite human. The visual effects are well done, but for an action movie, there's actually a lack of stand-out action set-pieces. Sci-fi fans who go in with limited expectations should enjoy this, but non-fans may think it's a lot of gibberish and visual overload.  7/10

 

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#11 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 09:27 PM

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract - Another animated DC Comics superhero movie. The Teen Titans, a group of youthful superheroes including Robin (v: Stuart Allen), Blue Beetle (v: Jake T. Austin), Raven (v: Taissa Farmiga), Terra (v: Christina Ricci), Beast Boy (v: Brandon Soo Hoo), and team leaders Starfire (v: Kari Wahlgren) and Nightwing (v: Sean Maher), are after a criminal group known as H.I.V.E., which may be using the religious cult of Brother Blood (v: Gregg Henry) as a cover. Little do they know, but the Titans themselves are also a target, and their hunter is none other than feared killer Deathstroke (v: Miguel Ferrer), and he's in league with one of their own... Also featuring the voices of Meg Foster, and Kevin Smith as himself.

 

This adapts another of the Titans storylines from their acclaimed 1980s series, with a few modifications. The relationships between the team members is well scripted, although the dialogue given to Deathstroke is often cringeworthy. Voice artist Miguel Ferrer died 3 months before this was released. A quick flashback at the beginning showing the arrival of Starfire also features some fun cameos by former members Speedy, Kid Flash, and Bumblebee. This is a step up from the previous animated film, but that's faint praise.   6/10

 

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#12 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 07:19 PM

Justice League Dark - Animated DC Comics superhero movie, focusing on the supernatural characters in the DC Universe. When random people throughout the world start hallucinating demons, the Justice League looks into the case. The team's most skeptical member, Batman (voice of Jason O'Mara), is personally contacted by the spirit world and asked to find supernatural expert John Constantine (v: Matt Ryan), who helps assemble a team capable of finding the culprit. The team includes beautiful sorceress Zatanna (v: Camilla Luddington); Jason Blood (v: Ray Chase), who can transform into the powerful demon Etrigan; and disembodied spirit Deadman (v: Nicholas Turturro). All signs point to an ancient sorcerer known as Destiny (v: Alfred Molina), but has he become too powerful to stop? Also featuring the voices of Rosario Dawson, Jerry O'Connell, Jeremy Davies, Enrico Colantoni, and Roger Cross.

 

This was a popular comic book storyline, and has actually be in pre-production as a live-action film for years, first to be adapted and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, then with Doug Liman taking over the directing duties before dropping out earlier this year. At the recent Comic-Con, Warner Brothers announced that this is still on their slate of proposed films. Hopefully if it does come to the big screen, it's better than this cartoon version. The dialogue is terrible, full of cliches and bad attempts at clever banter. When the villain's plan is finally unveiled, it's also rather stupid. Matt Ryan, who voices central character Constantine here, also played the role in the short-lived live-action TV series.   5/10

 

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#13 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 05:36 PM

Arsenal - More crime/action garbage from Grindstone Entertainment. Set in Biloxi, Mississippi, the story concerns brothers JP (Adrian Grenier) and Mikey (Johnathan Schaech). The younger JP is a straight-laced construction company boss, while Mikey has hit rock bottom after a life of crime, reduced to pawning stolen weapons. Local crime boss Eddie King (Nicolas Cage) comes up with a plan to extort money from JP by kidnapping Mikey and threatening to kill him unless Jp pays up. JP, with help from undercover cop Sal (John Cusack), tries to save his brother. Also featuring Megan Leonard, Lydia Hull, and William Mark McCullough.

 

This is cheap, stupid and pointless. The majority of the cast has nothing to work with, and nothing is what they bring to the screen, but it doesn't really matter when Cage goes full-nutzoid with his performance. Inexplicably wearing a bad Sonny Bono wig, a droopy fake mustache, and a terrible putty nose, Cage also adopts a bizarre speaking voice with clenched teeth. It ranks among his best-worst screen travesties, and one wonders what the other people working on the movie were thinking when Cage started his scenes. This is only for people who want to see a cinematic car-crash.   3/10

 

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#14 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 02:47 PM

Voice from the Stone - Supernatural drama based on the novel by Silvio Raffo. In 1950s Italy, Verena (Emilia Clarke) is a private pediatric nurse specializing in helping children overcome behavioral and mental issues. She arrives for her new patient at an old stone castle in the Tuscan countryside. The lord of the manor, Klaus (Marton Csokas), wants help for his young son Jakob (Edward Dring), who has not spoken a word since his mother (Caterina Murino) died recently. Verena tries everything in her skill-set to try and reach the child, but to no avail. When she learns that generations of family ancestors are buried in the basement crypt, and that folklore has it that their spirits inhabit the very stonework of the castle, Verena realizes much more is at stake than usual. Also featuring Remo Girone and Lisa Gastoni.

 

When I frequented the movie theater regularly, it became a sort of tradition that the first film that I saw each year ended up being an instantly forgettable horror movie dumped by the studios during the slow month of January. So I suppose it's appropriate that my first movie from 2017 is this bland ghost story. Clarke, who is so good on TV's Game of Thrones, is awful here, as is frequent screen bad guy Csokas. The languid pace and story take a turn about an hour in, when the film switches to a cheeseball Gothic romance bodice-ripper. This isn't really a thriller or a horror movie, although there's one would-be creepy moment near the end, by which point most in the audience will be asleep.   4/10

 

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#15 Bogie56

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 06:55 AM

I would like to say a few words about the plight of Silence. I have mentioned before that I am a part of an online group of mostly young people who intently watch and discuss Oscar films past and present. Having studiously followed the entire 2016 Oscar race, I can say that the main reason for the shunning of Silence was its production company, Paramount Pictures.

For much of the year, it looked as though Paramount was going to have a stunning Oscar year. They had Silence, Fences, Arrival, Allied, and Florence Foster Jenkins, and all of them came with the possibility of awards. Well, Allied opened and disappointed many critics and audiences so that was DOA. Arrival and Fences both got their Best Picture nominations, even though the former embarrassingly missed out on a seemingly surefire nomination for Amy Adams. Florence Foster Jenkins also slipped up slightly as the category fraud of passing Hugh Grant as supporting completely backfired, costing him what looked to become the first nomination of his career.

But Silence was the most negatively affected. Paramount dragged their feet on the film. The first trailer did not appear until November, the poster having arrived a month earlier (I think). They embargoed it from many critics until shortly before its Christmas Day release, thus costing the movie greatly, as it needed those critical guild prizes to attract the Oscars' attention. And so very few people had seen it by the time the Oscar ballots were due. It was a shameful situation. This isn't the first time Paramount did something like this. It happened in 2014 with Selma, but that film did get a Best Picture nomination. Had Silence been done by another studio, I think it would have had a much stronger showing at the Oscars. Scorses just moved his next project away from Paramount and is producing it for Netflix instead.

As for the film, it was one of the most talked about films of the year in the group, and most people loved it when they saw it. I saw it in June and thought it was a thought-provoking, masterful film. My being a Catholic probably also helped my appreciation of its moral complexities. The performances were spot on. I think that it is one of Scorsese's very best films, and it will be making my top 10 list about 2 months from now. (As will another film that had its award hopes dashed by studio incompetence, A24's 20th Century Women)

 

Silence had the added burden of racing to try to finish it on time.  They rushed it a bit too much to try to make its release date.  Perhaps that added to the studio's confusion on how to market and push it?  I saw it at BAFTA and though I still thought it the best film of 2017 I was astounded by how many blatant schoolboy editing mistakes in dialogue sequences that there were in the first forty minutes.



#16 LawrenceA

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 01:06 AM

I only have a few (12 to be exact) titles from 2017, and at least a third of those are junk. I have not yet seen anything from 2017, so I don't have any to list beforehand. I won't be quite as restrictive in my viewing habits after I'm finished, so I'll continue to post in this thread as I see any movies that fit within the thread theme of anything from 1990 to the present, including 2017 movies as they become available to me.


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#17 CinemaInternational

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 12:52 AM

I would like to say a few words about the plight of Silence. I have mentioned before that I am a part of an online group of mostly young people who intently watch and discuss Oscar films past and present. Having studiously followed the entire 2016 Oscar race, I can say that the main reason for the shunning of Silence was its production company, Paramount Pictures.

For much of the year, it looked as though Paramount was going to have a stunning Oscar year. They had Silence, Fences, Arrival, Allied, and Florence Foster Jenkins, and all of them came with the possibility of awards. Well, Allied opened and disappointed many critics and audiences so that was DOA. Arrival and Fences both got their Best Picture nominations, even though the former embarrassingly missed out on a seemingly surefire nomination for Amy Adams. Florence Foster Jenkins also slipped up slightly as the category fraud of passing Hugh Grant as supporting completely backfired, costing him what looked to become the first nomination of his career.

But Silence was the most negatively affected. Paramount dragged their feet on the film. The first trailer did not appear until November, the poster having arrived a month earlier (I think). They embargoed it from many critics until shortly before its Christmas Day release, thus costing the movie greatly, as it needed those critical guild prizes to attract the Oscars' attention. And so very few people had seen it by the time the Oscar ballots were due. It was a shameful situation. This isn't the first time Paramount did something like this. It happened in 2014 with Selma, but that film did get a Best Picture nomination. Had Silence been done by another studio, I think it would have had a much stronger showing at the Oscars. Scorses just moved his next project away from Paramount and is producing it for Netflix instead.

As for the film, it was one of the most talked about films of the year in the group, and most people loved it when they saw it. I saw it in June and thought it was a thought-provoking, masterful film. My being a Catholic probably also helped my appreciation of its moral complexities. The performances were spot on. I think that it is one of Scorsese's very best films, and it will be making my top 10 list about 2 months from now. (As will another film that had its award hopes dashed by studio incompetence, A24's 20th Century Women)
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#18 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 July 2017 - 11:56 PM

Silence - Martin Scorsese's long-in-development adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo. In 17th century Japan where Christianity is illegal and punishable by death, two Portuguese Jesuits, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), sneak into the country to search for their missing mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). The two missionaries minister to the remaining Christian population as best as they can, but as the crackdown on believers is intensified, Rodrigues has his faith tested to the extremes of spiritual endurance. Also featuring Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ogata, Yosuke Kubozuka, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

This was a passion project of Scorsese's, who had struggled for years to get it made. The difficulty he encountered finding funding is understandable when one sees the final product. It has little to no American commercial value, and is instead an earnest, deeply philosophical, in-depth examination of the limits of faith. The period and setting details are meticulous, as always in a Scorsese production, and the cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is gorgeous. Garfield has a difficult role, and he pulls it off, showing a true character arc from beginning to end in his performance. There are several very good supporting actor performances here, too, from Driver and Neeson as the fellow Jesuits, to Ogata as the wily old Inquisitor and Asano as his official interpreter. As I stated, I can see why this would fail at the box office, but why it failed to also click with critics during awards season, I cannot fathom. The movie did earn a single Oscar nomination for Prieto's cinematography. It is my personal choice for best film of the year. Highly recommended.   9/10

 

This was my final 2016 movie.

 

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#19 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 July 2017 - 08:59 PM

Moonlight - Character study in triptych from writer-director Barry Jenkins. Told in three chapters, the film focuses on Chiron aka Little aka Black. In the first section, Little (Alex Hibbert) is a young kid, small for his age and picked on by his peers. He's discovered cowering from bullies in a crack den by mid-level drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). He takes the young boy under his wing, much to the anger of his nurse mother Paula (Naomie Harris). In the second section, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is now a high school teenager. He's still bullied, and now has to deal with his mother's out-of-control crack addiction. In the third section, Black (Trevante Rhodes) is now an adult, and a mid-level drug dealer himself. He's also struggling with his repressed homosexuality, which was only revealed once many years ago. Also featuring Janelle Monae, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland, and Patrick Decile.

 

This is a small movie in comparison with most Oscar-winning Best Pictures. The direction is fairly straightforward, and the scope of the story is limited to a sketch of a character. Ali's Oscar win for supporting actor is also a surprise, as while he's good, his role lacks any dynamic scenes that make him stand out. In many ways this reminded me of 2009's Precious, a study in abuse and misery among the poor and drug-addicted. I thought singer Janelle Monae was good, adding to her sterling acting year, and I was also impressed by Andre Holland as the adult version of Black's friend Kevin. But for me the reach of the film was too minor to make a lasting impression, and after this first viewing, I would have to rank this among the lesser of the Best Picture winners. The film earned nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Harris), Best Director (Jenkins), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Score, while it won for Best Supporting Actor (Ali), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture (eventually!).   7/10

 

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#20 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 July 2017 - 05:49 PM

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - First in a proposed series of one-off movies taking place in the Star wars universe. This direct prequel to the original 1977 film concerns the Rebel Alliance's efforts to learn about the Empire's secret new weapon, the Death Star. When word of such a weapon leaks out, the Alliance recruits thief Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to make contact with radical resistance leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), with whom she has a past, and who is rumored to be in contact with a former Imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed) with news about the Death Star. Jyn is accompanied by Rebel spymaster Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), his robot sidekick K-2S0 (voice of Alan Tudyk), blind monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and his companion, the grizzled heavy-gunner Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang). Opposing them is Imperial General Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the ambitious supervisor of the Death Star project. Also featuring Mads Mikkelsen, Genevieve O'Reilly, and Jimmy Smits.

 

This was a troubled production, with the film's producers and the bosses at Disney demanding reshoots after director Gareth Edward's original cut was deemed too dark and depressing. The end result movie is a mixed bag of some great scenes that rank with the best of the series along with lengthy patches of the film that left me uninvolved. The central problem may lie with the Jyn Erso character, who we never really get to know and only root for because we are supposed to. There's no fault with Jones' performance, but rather with the unfocused screenplay, credited to at least 4 people. Several of the supporting characters are interesting or fun, though, such as the acerbically blunt robot K-2S0, and the Force-worshiping monk played by Chinese martial arts superstar Yen.

 

Another problem with the movie is that, despite the fact that these stand-alone adventures are touted as being outside of the traditional Star Wars storyline, they are still beholden to them, with all of the events here leading up directly to the beginning of the 1977 movie. This one also takes the added step of not only featuring a CGI young Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, but also featuring the long-deceased Peter Cushing, rendered via CGI, as the original film's villain Grand Moff Tarkin (and which ends up not quite looking right nor sounding like Cushing). There are also many throwaway lines and visual gags in the periphery that are call backs to the earlier films. We still don't know how well a truly original film set in this universe will be received, since this wasn't one, nor will the next one, due in 2018, another prequel, this one covering the formative years of Harrison Ford's Han Solo character.

 

Overall, though, I still liked more than I disliked here, especially during the final 45 minutes, when the big ground raid and space battles occur. I also didn't mind the bleaker resolution, which in many ways was a foregone conclusion. This received two Oscar nominations, for Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. I'd give this a 7.5, but since I don't do partials, I'll round up. 8/10

 

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