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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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I saw four movies last week.  Independence Day, along with Armageddon, is the most cynical of Hollywood blockbusters.  It lacks craft, genuine wit, or genuine invention.  Every gesture is made with the lowest common denomination response in mind.  But the idea of our world, or our world in 1996, suddenly interrupted by an malevolent, impenetrable alien force, did have a visceral effect that seemed to make up for it.  I can tell when this effect wears off.  It's near the end of the first third, where after the aliens have destroyed the world's cities and uncounted millions of lives, the stripper with the heart of gold is not only saved along with her child, but also their bloody dog makes it as well.  Independence Day: Resurgence is not able to repeat that visceral effect, since their 2016 is nothing like our 2016.  And despite more destruction, more danger, more special effects, more aerial battles, more plot holes (Judd Hirsch manages to get from the Atlantic Coast to Nevada in a day?) everything is very low energy.  Will Smith's performance in the original was nothing special, but one misses its energy here.  Jeff Goldblum has never been less interesting.

Mandy, in retrospect, is what would happen if you took all the elements of Ghost Rider, put them in a blender, and then hired an independent director to create a movie out of them.  The results are...genuinely eccentric.  Crazy Nicolas Cage has a good reason to be crazy.  I haven't actually been watching the movies since Adaptation that destroyed his reputation, but he's surprisingly tolerable here.  Certainly a strange movie, maybe even a good one.  Sweet Bird of Youth is Richard Brooks' second shot at directing Tennessee Williams.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was not a good movie, but at least there was an understandable relationship between repressed homosexual Paul Newman and his oversexed wife Elizabeth Taylor.  By contrast, the relationship between Newman and Shirley Knight seems to be based on some studio head's desire for a happy ending to go along with the bowdlerized story.  The 17th Parallel is clearly the movie of the week.  Clearly it's a partisan documentary, and should be viewed with caution.  On the other hand this portrait of a North Vietnamese village resisting American bombing does offer a genuine picture of people showing considerable initiative under remarkable strain, as well as a side American media made little effort to show.

I also rewatched the Peter Brook King Lear the Saturday before, and My Man Godfrey.  It's awesome, and I'm startled I didn't realize it before.

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I saw three movies last week.  I saw Bloodbrothers because it had been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The seventies saw a number of movies which sought to deal with Italian Americans.  Bloodbrothers was one of those where neither the director, the screenwriter, the writer of the original novel, or the main star and focus of audience identification were actually Italian.  You might think this was not a promising approach, and you would be right.  As it happened, the director of Bloodbrothers, Robert Mulligan, had directed in 1963 Love with the Proper Stranger, a tale of two Italian-Americans played by Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen (!) united by the magic of unwanted pregnancy which got five oscar nominations (!!).  LWTPS was not a good, or honest movie, but at least it had Wood and McQueen as a couple.  Supposedly a tougher movie, Bloodbrothers just has most of Italian characters being really obnoxious.  The dilemma the protagonist faces between the close, narrow minded traditions of his family and the more imaginative fulfilling choice that he's actually good at is as predictable as one might think.  Even more irritating is that Richard Gere's (implausibly awful) parents, played by actors thirteen years older than him, look exactly like actors thirteen years older than him.  This lack of credibility is especially irritating considering that paternal authority is the key theme of the movie.

Gilda Live is amusing, although the best skit is early on in the movie, and Radner, I'm afraid, doesn't have the energy or power that Bette Midler had in the same year's Divine Madness.  Ironically the most telling joke is when one of Radner's characters is singing an ode to saccharin, claiming that men prefer thin girls with cancer to healthy ones with bulging thighs.  Radner's own death later that decade from ovarian cancer is a nasty irony.  Tanna isn't exactly a remake of Tabu, although it has a similar plot in that it deals with unfortunate lovers facing opposition from tribal authorities.  It's OK, and if there's nothing here that's as memorable as in Murnau's work, there's considerable attention paid to authenticity.  The film was shot in Vanuatu, and the characters speak the local language.  One interesting thing is one might think the story told was very old, and then halfway through the movie one of the characters says he's seen Prince Philip.  Later the lovers find a Christian village and this leads to the movie's funniest line ("Those people really freak me out.") and at the end we find it's 1987!

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I saw four movies last week.  BlacKkKlansman is an interesting and in many ways serviceable Spike Lee joint about the first black police officer in his Colorado city who decides to investigate the Klan.  Having accidentally given his real name to the man he telephoned he has to convince a Jewish colleague to impersonate him as part of the investigation.  Adam Driver, as the colleague, does a good job as does Jasper Paakkonen as the most sinister of the Klansmen and Topher Grace as David Duke.  There's a certain weakness of rhetoric, with  Stokely Carmichael appearing giving a speech doing his trademark more charisma than brains.  Where are my Children? may have been directed by a woman and an argument for contraception.  But it doesn't wear well a century later, what with its seduced and abandoned subplot, belief that women have abortion for frivolous reasons and obvious name (Malfit as the abortionist).

Peking Opera Blues is one of the more successful action films of 1986, with the plot of three women in Republican China trying to help the national good over warlord factions.  It's expertly edited, well paced and shot, notwithstanding the lack of acrobatics later seen in Once Upon a Time in China.  It also does well with the limitations put upon it.  Chinese cinema at the time, whether Communist or non-communist, was fairly puritan in its tone.  So the fact that two men who hang around and help the two women don't become love interests actually works in giving the women more autonomy.  (The movie ends with the five riding off in different directions.)  The Unknown Girl is another fine Dardenne brothers drama about the Belgian precariat, if not quite up to the high standards as their previous two films.  In this case a doctor ignores a buzz at her clinic door an hour after closing, only to find out soon after that the inquirer was the title character in question, and she died violently shortly afterwards.  Adele Haenel gives an especially good performance as the doctor as she tries to find out who the victim was.

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I watched 37 movies in the past 8 days.

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The best were Frances Ha (2012), a B&W indie starring Greta Gerwig as a twentysomething college grad in New York trying to find her place in life. It was funny, smart, and featured a very winning performance from Gerwig. I also really liked Wadjda (2012), the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and also the first directed by a Saudi woman. It follows the daily life of 13-year-old Wadjda, a young Saudi girl on the verge of womanhood and coming up against the various cultural and religious restrictions placed on women in their society. It's moving while not being preachy or overbearing.

Other good movies that I watched last week include A Royal Affair (2012), John Dies at the End (2012), Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), Enemy (2013), Murder Party (2007), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), Night Moves (2013), A Touch of Sin (2013), and Camp X-Ray (2014).

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The worst was A Talking Cat!?! (2013), one of the worst films I've ever watched, earning a rare rating of a 1 out of 10 from me. It's a family-friendly comedy about a talking housecat (voice of Eric Roberts) who helps bring various neighbors together, including a bloated Johnny Whitaker as a retired tech millionaire and Kristine DeBell as a struggling mother and would-be caterer. The movie is amazingly dumb, slow, and cheap, and will be a true test of fortitude for any bad-movie connoisseur.

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Last week I saw four movies.  Valmont is beautifully shot with lovely set decoration and charming performances.  Had Dangerous Liaisons not appeared a year earlier, and had there not been a prominent theatrical adaptation of the original novel earlier that year, people would undoubtedly have liked it much more.  However, there were both such things, leading one to think why anyone would produce a version defined by having nicer protagonists.  Seriously, what's the point?  As such, the cast ultimately pales besides Dangerous Liaisons:  Annette Bening acquits herself best against Glen Close, while Meg Tilly and Fairuza Balk are least impressive against Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman. 

Settling into the sixth Mission Impossible movie, it occurred to me that I had forgotten the subtitle (Fallout), as well as the subtitle to the previous movie (Rogue Nation), and had forgotten most of that movie except Tom Cruise hanging on to a flying plane, and an elaborate scene where he has to get somewhere or deactivate something while running the risk of drowning.  As it turns out, this movie is a bit more memorable:  there's an elaborate, and very threatening fight in a bathroom near the beginning.  There's also an elaborate chase involving helicopters over the Himalayas as a climax, complicated by the fact that Cruise can't simply kill the villain since he has to take the detonator he's carrying.  Also there is an interesting, somewhat over elaborate car chase in Paris for the middle which is OK if not brilliant.  Once again, the plot involves Ethan Hunt being accused, or framed of involvement in a terrorist conspiracy, and only way he can clear his name involves giving the terrorists what they want.  Also this plans goes badly wrong, and Hunt has to find a way to solve it.  I know variations of this happened in movies 1 and 4, and if I cared enough about the plots, it may have happened in 2, 3 and 5.  At least this time the government officials who criticize Hunt are even more horribly compromised.

Something New is a silent movie with only one joke.  But it is a surprisingly good joke and sustained over the 55 minutes it lasts.  Basically Nell Shipman, director and lead actress, is kidnapped by Mexican bandits.  And so the hero comes to rescue her (which he eventually does) and they (eventually) get away.  The joke is that he does this by car, and he's doing this in a rocky, mountainous area where you'd have to be an utter idiot to drive.  Given the reliability, or the lack of them, of 1920 automobiles, any drivers watching the film in its first run must have been terrified as how the car crawls over the landscape, thinking every minute the suspension will break.  Shipman also shows some initiative as the movie goes on. 

I can imagine the conversation studio heads had when developing Roman J. Israel Esq:  "It has Denzel Washington concerned about the African-American community."  "We've done that."  "He's also a lawyer concerned about losing his soul."  "We've also done that."  "But this time he has Asberger's Syndrome."  "All right I admit we haven't done that.  But should we bother?"  As it happens the issues raised are vaguely and shallowly presented, and the thriller that the movie eventually gets around to doesn't amount to much.  True, the director of Michael Clayton liked it.  But since the directors of the two movies are brothers, people who don't have to share Thanksgiving dinner with them can reasonably be more skeptical. 

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I watched 38 movies in the past week. The best were:

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The Look of Silence (2014) was the documentary follow-up to The Act of Killing (2012). Like that first film, The Look of Silence concerns the killing of over a million suspected "communists" from 1965 to 1966, following a military coup in Indonesia. The filmmakers follow Adi, an ophthalmologist whose older brother was among those killed, as he visits surviving perpetrators of those atrocities and confronts them about their guilt while also measuring them for eyeglasses. It sounds silly, but it's a powerful film that moves the viewer as much as the first film did.

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Another recommendation is The Invitation (2015), a very slow-burn American thriller that deftly ratchets up the tension in a way few do anymore. It's best to know as little as possible before going in, but I will say that it concerns a couple attending a dinner party at the home of the guy's ex-wife. The audience gradually learns about the characters' pasts as a sense of dread seems to settle over everything said and done.

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I also really enjoyed The Lure (2015), an absolutely original Polish film that's a musical-horror-romance about a pair of flesh-eating mermaid sisters who become singing stars in the early 1980's Polish discotheque scene. It's funny, with catchy songs, and interesting cinematography. 

I also liked Good Kill (2014), The Rover (2014), Son of a Gun (2014), 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), The Water Diviner (2014), Don Verdean (2015), Beasts of No Nation (2015), Born to Be Blue (2015), The Devil's Candy (2015), The End of the Tour (2015), Evolution (2015), He Never Died (2015), and Into the Forest (2015).

 

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The worst of the week was easily Saving Christmas (2014), the winner of that year's Razzie Award for Worst Picture. While I expected goofy proselytizing with a healthy dollop of corny seasonal sentiment, instead I was greeted with amateurish filmmaking, cringe-worthy ideas ("Materialism is fine during Christmas, since Jesus had a material body!"), and a massive ego trip for star Kirk Cameron, who has never come across worse, and that's saying something.

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3 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

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The worst of the week was easily Saving Christmas (2014), the winner of that year's Razzie Award for Worst Picture. While I expected goofy proselytizing with a healthy dollop of corny seasonal sentiment, instead I was greeted with amateurish filmmaking, cringe-worthy ideas ("Materialism is fine during Christmas, since Jesus had a material body!"), and a massive ego trip for star Kirk Cameron, who has never come across worse, and that's saying something.

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Kirk Cameron responded to the film's negative reviews by pleading to his fans on his Facebook page: "Help me storm the gates of Rotten Tomatoes. All of you who love Saving Christmas - go rate it at Rotten Tomatoes right now and send the message to all the critics that WE decide what movies we want our families to see. If 2,000 of you (out of almost 2 million on this page) take a minute to rate Saving Christmas, it will give the film a huge boost and more will see it as a result! Thank you for all your help and support in putting the joy of Christ back in Christmas!" This actually resulted in a severe backlash against the film, in which Internet users traveled to the Rotten Tomatoes page and condemned the film. Cameron later blamed this action on "haters and atheists".

:lol::lol: :lol: :lol::lol::lol::lol: 

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I saw three movies last week.  The Illustrated Man starts off, if not well, at least intriguingly taken place about half a century before the movie premiered.  Unfortunately the three stories of the future that this frames are much less interesting.  The first story, about virtual reality, is so bland and commonplace in its portrayal of a repressed future and cold families that I wasn't paying proper attention to the final kick.  People's reaction to the second story is less likely to be "what a moving story of the struggle for survival on an alien planet" and more "Wow!  People sixty years really didn't know what Venus is like."  The third story, and I say this as an opponent of euthanasia, has a facile ending.  Also a better director would have kept Rod Steiger in his place.

Blindspotting is the most interesting movie of the week, with the African-American protagonist near the end of his parole, and with a white best friend who has clearly taken Norman Mailer's "The White Negro" too much to heart.  Their relationship is interesting, and I would have liked to see more of Janina Gavankar as  the ex-love interest.  Unfortunately the themes become a little more obvious in the last quarter of the film, with an unlikely coincidence leading to a less than successful climax. 

All the Money in the World is another slick and empty Ridley Scott movie.  As a story of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty's grandson it's watchable enough.  But the movie has little to say except Getty cared only for money and didn't really appreciate other people, and that Getty's daughter in law was understandably much more upset at the kidnapping.  Combined with this the movie also has Getty dying while a (very exaggerated) rescue of his grandson takes place.  In fact, he died more than two and half years later.  Nor does it discuss the grandson's ultimately pathetic fate.

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I watched 34 movies in the past week. It was a particularly weak run of films, with few to recommend.

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The best was Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016), a documentary that recently aired on TCM. It details the history behind a terrific find in 1978: a large amount of silent film reels buried in a landfill in the title Canadian city. The movie does a tremendous job of intertwining the history of that small gold rush town and the beginnings of the film industry far south in the U.S. While it seems to go off on several digressions, they only serve to illustrate the importance of the film clips recovered from the site, as many offer the only moving visual record of people and events from the first part of the 20th century. The film's lengthy running time is largely like the silent films it discusses, with no narration or interviews except for bookends. Much of the film has on-screen notations, accompanied by moody, avant-garde music. I liked it a lot, and recommend it to historians, of the film variety or otherwise.

 

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Other movies that I thought were good include Slow West (2015), Southpaw (2015), Turbo Kid (2015), Where to Invade Next (2015), Allied (2016), Anthropoid (2016), Colossal (2016), and Free State of Jones (2016).

 

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Among the mediocre titles were Self/Less (2015), Synchronicity (2015), Tale of Tales (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), Victoria (2015), American Pastoral (2016), ARQ (2016), The Assignment (2016), The Bad Batch (2016), Bad Moms (2016), Ben-Hur (2016), Beyond the Gates (2016), Central Intelligence (2016), Certain Women (2016), The 5th Wave (2016), Free Fire (2016), The Good Neighbor (2016), Holidays (2016), and House on Willow Street (2016).

 

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The truly bad ones included Shark Lake (2015), The Binding (2016), Cabin Fever (2016), Code of Honor (2016), and Friend Request (2016). 

 

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The worst was The Asian Connection (2016), a cheap crime drama about an American criminal in Thailand who regularly crosses the border into Cambodia to rob banks. This brings him into conflict with a Cambodian crime boss played by noted Asian thespian Steven Seagal. That should say it all, but Seagal, even in a much smaller role than usual, still manages to embarrass himself and his co-stars with his half-assed performance and laughable posturing.

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I saw seven movies last week, all of them surprisingly OK.  Saying White House Down is the best Roland Emmerich movie I've seen is not high praise and it's not meant to be.  But it's certainly better than Olympus Has Fallen, which has an identical plot.  Of course much of it is obviously cliched.  (Will the protagonist's adorable daughter find herself in mortal peril when she accompanies her father to the White House on the day it's attacked by terrorists?  Seriously, you can't guess the answer?)  But it's comparatively sober and realistic compared to his other movies, and it's acceptable if you really have no need to think.

The Profound Desire of the Gods appears as a sort of Japanese version of Deliverance, only concentrating on the inbred rustics rather than on the metropolitan upper middle class who encounter them.  As such one wonders, like in Deliverance, how much of this is really a picture of metropolitan condescension.  Shohei Imamura would take a slightly less lurid take in better movies in the future.  But although long, the movie itself has a certain power.  Birdman of Alcatraz combines two genres, the prison movie and the scientist movie and the result is thoroughly satisfactory.  The key for Lancaster's character, as for the scientist movies I saw from the thirties and forties is long and frustrating trial and error.  Lancaster is good, if not at his best, though it's hard to say that Tell Savalas and Thelma Ritter deserved their nominations.

Crazy Rich Asians has a surfeit of style and panache.  The leads have a certain charm, although one notices they're not particularly charming together.  The glorification of Singapore wealth rather blatantly undercut any "wealth isn't everything" message.  The mother's objections are not really dealt with and the happy ending makes no sense whatsoever.  Spite Marriage is not considered one of Buster Keaton's best films.  So remaking it and replacing Keaton with Red Skelton in I Dood It is not likely to make an especially good movie.  But with two dance numbers by Eleanor Powell, and two musical numbers with Lena Horne, it's a reasonably pleasant one.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is a DC superhero movie with more good jokes than all the other DC superhero movies put together.  This is largely because it's a movie version of an animated series that's more of an affectionate parody of the original comic book.  While not brilliant, it's amusing in its own right.  (Best joke, adult superheroes tell about the movies made about them.  Green Lantern adds there's been a movie about him.  "We don't talk about it.")  Although one wonders why they never made a movie of their most famous comic book story ("The Judas Contract") having Raven as a goth girl and Starfire as a Power Puff girl is a nice touch.  Molly's Game is also OK, sort of like a low energy Casino or The Social Network.  It's the sort of movie where Jessica Chastain's cleavage is more impressive than her acting, and the climax is somewhat less than that.  But Aaron Sorkin's screenplay is certainly reliable.

 

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I watched 35 movies this past week. The best were a trio of documentaries.

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I Am Not Your Negro (2016) is based on the notes of writer James Baldwin's unfinished final book, which was to look at the state of black America through the lives of three civil rights champions: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film is as much about Baldwin as those three men, and it's a fascinating portrait of remarkable men and turbulent times, with the filmmakers doing an admirable job of linking their struggles in the 1950's and 60's with modern American troubles.

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One More Time with Feeling (2016) deals with the Australian singer Nick Cave, who had entered the studio to cut his 16th album only for his 15 year old son to die in a tragic accident shortly thereafter. Cave knew that he would be inundated with media requests for interviews and the like, and that he would need to provide some sort of promotional material for the new album, so he invited his director friend Andrew Dominick and a small film crew to follow Cave, as well as his band mates, his wife, and his surviving son, as they deal with grief and look for succor through artistic expression. What sounds exploitative is instead a very moving depiction of people struggling to cope with the unimaginable, and finding some brief respite in their music.

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13th (2016) was nominated for both the Oscar for Best Documentary, as well as for an Emmy for television excellence, a clear example of the blurring of the lines between cinema and TV in modern times. The film charts the rise of the prison-industrial complex in the wake of the ratification of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery while including a clause that has made prisoners de facto slaves. The entanglement of corporations that profit from mass incarceration with the legislators who write the laws that boost said incarceration is expertly drawn.

 

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I also enjoyed Lady Macbeth (2016), Live by Night (2016), The Love Witch (2016), L7: Pretend We're Dead (2016), Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago (2016), Operation Mekong (2016), Personal Shopper (2016), Raw (2016), and The Night Eats the World (2018).

 

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Among the mediocre titles were Regression (2015), The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016), Hush (2016), In a Valley of Violence (2016), Inferno (2016), Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016), Masterminds (2016), Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016), Nina (2016), Our Kind of Traitor (2016), Rules Don't Apply (2016), and Shelley (2016).

 

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The lousy films included In Dubious Battle (2016), Kindergarten Cop 2 (2016), The Last Face (2016), Max Steel (2016), Phantasm: Ravager (2016), The Rift (2016), The Unwilling (2016), Welcome to Willits (2016), Larceny (2017), and Patient Zero (2018).

 

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The absolute nadir once again featured beloved screen star Steven Seagal, but in a small supporting role. The Perfect Weapon is dystopian sci-fi about a near future where a totalitarian government, led by Seagal, reigns supreme. They maintain power through the use of brainwashed assassins, like our hero Condor (Johnny Messner). Condor is being used by various factions to further their agendas, whether it's fomenting revolution or suppressing same. Either way, the movie's a badly filmed, poorly written, dreadfully acted mess. Chalk up another winner for Seagal!

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Worst: The Garbage Pail Kids. Thinking about it makes me sad.

Best: Toss-up between The Killing and Some Like It Hot, the former is one of the best noirs I've ever seen, and one amazing heist movie. It has everything going for it and runs with it, leading up to an ending as memorable as the final line to Some Like It Hot. It also felt crazy short, just flew by but that I guess that what makes it so good as it takes hold and never lets go. And that jazzy number in the shootout, that was just bananas and perfection. Some Like It Hot is a rewatch but I just love the cast for it. It's funny, entertaining and everybody is on point.

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I saw three interesting movies last week.  Le Gai Savoir is from Godard's "revolutionary" period, moving beyond narrative films.  On the one hand it has Juliet Berto and Jean-Peirre Leaud as two young students talking in radical, vaguely Maoist verbiage.  On the other hand, the movie is also strikingly shot and edited, very differently in fact from the Cultural Revolution of the time, and interesting in its own respect.  The House that Jack Built is the supposedly infamous new movie from Lars Von Trier.  I actually found this picture where Matt Dillon plays a serial killer not remotely as contemptible as critics claim.  Instead of suggesting that serial killers are like artists, von Trier seems to suggest that the artist (i.e. himself) is like a serial killer, trafficking in crude violence, misogyny and pretension.  When viewed that way, it's a much more interesting work.  Also, it has very black humor.  The Terrorizers is the most innovative of the four Edward Yang features I've seen.  Strikingly shot in its own way, this elliptical and opaque story can be broken down into two stories in 1986 Taipei.  The first deals with an unhappy and incomplete novelist, and the rather pathetic husband she is cheating on.  The second deals with a femme fatale, well sort of, and the young photographer interested in her while waiting for his draft notice.  It's certainly a worthy successor to Antonioni. 

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I watched 36 movies in the past week. The best were:

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The Death of Stalin (2017), a humorous depiction of the chaotic fight for succession in the Soviet Union following the death of Stalin. The film is from writer-director Armando Iannucci, and if you're familiar with his work on the British TV series The Thick of It or the hilarious 2009 film In the Loop, then you know to expect witty, rapid-fire dialogue and off-beat character work. The cast is made up of British and American performers, notable Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin, and Jason Issacs, all using British or American accents, which only adds to the unusual charm of the film. It's a sharp and amusing tweaking of history.

 

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First Reformed (2017) is from writer-director Paul Schrader. Ethan Hawke is outstanding as an alcoholic reverend at an historic Dutch Reform church in upstate New York. He's already fraying at the seams, but a troubled parishioner pushes him even further towards self-destruction. This has been described as Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest or Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light mixed with Taxi Driver, and that description fits, although this has much less bloodshed. I found it to be a moving depiction of self-doubt and self-loathing desperately in search of spiritual redemption.

 

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I also enjoyed Atomic Blonde (2017), Cargo (2017), The Discovery (2017), Gerald's Game (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), Hostiles (2017), Icarus (2017), and In the Fade (2017).

 

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Among the mediocre movies I saw were The Dead Don't Die (1975), Evil Stalks This House (1981), Toni Erdmann (2016), Underworld: Blood Wars (2016), Aftermath (2017), All Eyez on Me (2017), Baywatch (2017), The Beyond (2017), The Circle (2017), Cold Skin (2017), Creep 2 (2017), The Dark Tower (2017), Death Note (2017), The Endless (2017), Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (2017), The Fate of the Furious (2017), Flatliners (2017), 47 Meters Down (2017), Geostorm (2017), The Greatest Showman (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), and The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017).

 

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The truly awful included Contract to Kill (2016), How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017), and The Humanity Bureau (2017).

 

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The worst film of the week was China Salesman (2017), a Chinese film that purports to tell the true story of how a Chinese telecommunications engineer, played by Dong-xue Li, helped "break the tyrannical grip of 3G technology over the world". He does so by vying for a contracting bid in an unnamed African country to set up the nation's tele-com network, which brings him into conflict with various factions, including revolutionaries led by Mike Tyson (!!!), as well as a blackmarket alcohol smuggler played by Steven Seagal. The largely incoherent plot is made even more so by everyone speaking in either their own language or heavily-accented English that's nearly incomprehensible. It's really hard to tell if the filmmakers intended this to be a comedy, a serious drama, or just a terrible action flick.

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On 11/11/2018 at 9:27 PM, Gershwin fan said:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4009460/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

Kirk Cameron responded to the film's negative reviews by pleading to his fans on his Facebook page: "Help me storm the gates of Rotten Tomatoes. All of you who love Saving Christmas - go rate it at Rotten Tomatoes right now and send the message to all the critics that WE decide what movies we want our families to see. If 2,000 of you (out of almost 2 million on this page) take a minute to rate Saving Christmas, it will give the film a huge boost and more will see it as a result! Thank you for all your help and support in putting the joy of Christ back in Christmas!" This actually resulted in a severe backlash against the film, in which Internet users traveled to the Rotten Tomatoes page and condemned the film. Cameron later blamed this action on "haters and atheists".

:lol::lol: :lol: :lol::lol::lol::lol: 

HILARIOUS!!!!!

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I saw three movies last week.  I saw December 7th-the Movie as part of my never ending search for good movies from 1943.  As it happens, the 1943 was actually a short.  The feature was not seen for decades, and given that much of it is devoted to fearmongering about Hawaii's Japanese population, that's probably just as well.  Butter on the Latch is an odd independent film about a young woman who decides to deal with the ennui of her life by visiting her friend in a Balkan music camp.  She idles the time away, then mythological themes become apparent and strange things happen.  Not for every taste.  So I suppose the movie of the week is Chronicle of the Years of Fire.  This movie, which won the top prize at Cannes, is an epic film about the struggle for Algerian independence.  The characterization is a bit weak, but it is visually striking in places.

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I watched 30 movies in the past week. Unfortunately, none of them were really exceptional (what I would rate as an 8 out of 10 or better), but there were a few that I liked well enough. Of those, my favorite was probably:

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Thelma (2017), an unusual Norwegian film about the title girl (played wonderfully by Eili Harboe), a sheltered young woman attending university and away from her strictly religious parents for the first time. Thelma soon begins to encounter strange events that may or may not be manifestations of some kind of repressed supernatural ability that she possesses. The film offers no easy answers, and the manner in which things unfold in the story leaves much open to viewer interpretation. This may prove to be too nebulous for most viewers, but I liked the cold Scandinavian vibe.

 

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I also enjoyed Ingrid Goes West (2017), Journey's End (2017), Lean on Pete (2017), Long Strange Trip (2017), The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017), Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017), and The Villainess (2017).

 

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Among the mediocre titles were Inconceivable (2017), Jigsaw (2017), Killing Gunther (2017), Little Evil (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Murder on the Orient Express (2017), 1922 (2017), Okja (2017), Pyewacket (2017), Ravenous (2017), Revenge (2017), Rough Night (2017), Security (2017), The Space Between Us (2017), 24 Hours to Live (2017), Vengeance: A Love Story (2017), and Veronica (2017).

 

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The really bad ones included Mohawk (2017), Needlestick (2017), Singularity (2017), and Stasis (2017).

 

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The title of "Worst of the Week" goes to Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), perhaps the worst mega-budget movie that I've ever watched. None of the Transformers films are very good, and they somehow get worse with each outing. Michael Bay, fighting desperately to maintain his "worst big-budget Hollywood director" crown, seems to have no grasp of story momentum, characterization, or a discerning sense of humor. The jokes are dumb, the dialogue is dumber, and the special effects often look rushed and poorly thought out, just a screeching mess of shifting, tumbling colors and noise. No other major actor than Mark Wahlberg could deliver these lines with a straight face. John Turturro shows up yet again (he's in several of these), and this time Anthony Hopkins also slums for a paycheck. 

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Another three movies this week:  Murder in the Private Car contains a very bland heroine (Mary Carlisle), racism in the form of a pathetic black servant played by an actor who was apparently not allowed a surname, and a murder plot that has no ingenuity and is idiotically over-elaborate.  In its defense, I would point out Charles Ruggles is amusing spouting malapropisms and there is an exciting climax involving a runaway railroad car.  I watched Thank God It's Friday because Leonard Maltin suggested it was the worst movie ever to win an oscar (for best song).  Even if you don't like disco, you might think a movie with both Donna Summer and the Commodores would be slightly better.  (Then again, people also thought having ELO and Gene Kelly would make Xanadu a good movie.)  But the half a dozen or so plot threads are handled very dully, not helped by the fact the characters are neither very funny, interesting or even likeable.  And if you think Hollywood treated Debra Winger shabbily, apparently this was a problem at the beginning of her career as well.

 

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely is the movie of the week.  It comes from the director of last week's Butter on the Latch.  It helps by being more concentrated in its focus.  Basically it's the story of a farm laborer, the farmer he works for, and the attractive young farmer's daughter.  A bit before the halfway mark we learn the laborer has a wife, who shows up for the climax.  Visually striking, its simple story is told thoughtfully and with a genuine sense of desire.  Interestingly enough, this was New Yorker critic Richard Brody number two movie of 2014, after The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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I watched 33 movies in the past week. My favorites were:

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You Were Never Really Here (2017) features a terrific performance from Joaquin Phoenix as a mentally unstable former soldier and LEO who has become a drug-addicted wreck. He works as an investigator who hunts down and rescues kidnapped children, often dishing out brutal vengeance to the kidnappers in the process. His latest case leads to some unexpected corners of power, which results in much bloodshed. Director Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin) doesn't present this like the traditional thriller it may sound like on paper, often leaving the actual scenes of violence off-screen and only showing the aftermath, either mental or physical. A dark, troubling character study that isn't for the faint-of-heart or those looking for the usual action movie tropes.  (8/10)

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) is the latest from the Coen brothers. An anthology western featuring six tales in all, my favorites were the first section with Tim Blake Nelson as a singing cowboy who is a bit more bloodthirsty than those in classic westerns; and a story about the burgeoning romance between two people on a westward wagon train. Other cast members include James Franco, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, and Liam Neeson. This doesn't rank among the Coens' best efforts, but I found it amusing and inventively shot. (8/10)

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BlacKkKlansman (2018) is the best movie from director Spike Lee in a long time. It's a strange-but-true tale about a black Colorado policeman (an excellent John David Washington) who manages to join the Ku Klux Klan. A white fellow policeman (Adam Driver) acts as the physical undercover cop while Washington works the phone. The movie is funny and well-acted, with a strong ending that brings things into uneasy focus. (8/10)

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Deadpool 2 (2018) is the follow-up to 2016's hit R-rated superhero spoof, once again featuring a hilarious lead performance from Ryan Reynolds as the motormouth assassin with the ability to heal any wounds, making him virtually indestructible. This film is more of the same as the first movie: lewd one-liners, lightning-fast pacing, enough jokes to require repeat viewings, and fourth-wall-demolishing commentary through out. It's the kind of thing that most posters around would absolutely despise. I loved it.   (8/10)

 

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I also liked The Little Hours (2017), What Happened to Monday (2017), Anon (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Blockers (2018), Calibre (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), The Death of Superman (2018), and Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018).

 

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The more average films included Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), War Machine (2017), Woman Walks Ahead (2017), XX (2017), XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017), Acts of Violence (2018), Apostle (2018), Bad Samaritan (2018), Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (2018), Batman Ninja (2018), The Bill Murray Stories (2018), Cam (2018), Death Wish (2018), Delirium (2018), and Eighth Grade (2018).

 

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The dregs of the week included Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016), Wish Upon (2017), Black Water (2018), and Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018).

 

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The worst of the week was Corbin Nash (2018), a dim-witted, derivative action/horror film about a lunkheaded ex-NYPD cop (Dean S. Jagger) who discovers that he's the last in a bloodline of monster hunters. He takes up the mantle in L.A., where he faces off against a drag-queen vampire played by Corey Feldman. Rutger Hauer, Bruce Davison, and Malcolm McDowell also show up to embarrass themselves.   (3/10)

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I watched 41 movies this past week, all from 2018, and including several stand-outs. The best of the week were:

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Hereditary is a slow-build supernatural horror film that builds are excellent sense of dread via the terrific score, sharp cinematography, and methodical script. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff are both fantastic as a mother and son dealing with family tragedy, unaware that their are darker forces at play. I thought this was the best horror film in many years, and currently sits as my favorite film of any genre from this year.   (9/10)

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Isle of Dogs is a brilliant stop-motion animation film from writer-director Wes Anderson. When a mayor outlaws all dogs in a Japanese prefecture, they are shipped to a trash-dump island to live out their days. A young Japanese boy travels there with plans to rescue his dog, and ends up fighting for the liberation of them all. The Japanese characters all speak in their own languages, while the dogs speak English. This is funny, warm, off-beat, and one of the best movies of the year.   (9/10)

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Mandy is a hallucinatory mind-trip that will appeal to very few around these parts, but to those of a certain sensibility (like myself), this is a darkly-comic near-masterpiece. Nicolas Cage battles drug-addled cultists and demonic biker gangs. It's beyond strange, extremely violent, and features some of the best cinematography is years.   (9/10)

 

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I saw a trio of recommendable documentaries. Shirkers, from filmmaker Sandi Tan, tells the twisty tale of the making of a movie by herself and her friends back in the early 1990's, and what happens after it's done. Anyone with a creative bent will be hooked by the enthusiasm of these young wouldbe filmmakers. Three Identical Strangers deals with three identical brothers who were adopted in infancy by different families and never knew of the others' existence until they met by chance in their early 20's. What happens next is unexpected, with emotional highs and lows. Won't You Be My Neighbor? illustrates the life, work, and ethos of PBS kid's TV fixture Fred Rogers. Even the most jaded viewer will be moved by this sensitive, moving portrait.  (all three 8/10)

 

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I also liked The Equalizer 2A Futile and Stupid GestureGame NightThe Kindergarten TeacherThe Land of Steady HabitsLeave No TraceRBGSearchingSorry to Bother YouStill On the Run: The Jeff Beck Story, and Upgrade. (all 7/10)

 

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The mediocre films included The 15:17 to ParisGringoHold the DarkHotel ArtemisI Think We're Alone NowJurassic World: Fallen KingdomMalevolentThe MegMuteOcean's EightPaternoThe PredatorSuicide Squad: Hell to PaySupport the GirlsTauUnsaneVenom, and Winchester. (all either a 6/10 or 5/10)

 

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The dregs of the week included Looking GlassSeven in HeavenThe Strangers: Prey at NightThe Titan, and 211. (all either a 4/10 or 3/10)

 

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The bottom of the barrel would have to be Escape Plan 2: Hades, a dreadful sci-fi action misfire featuring Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista. Stallone runs a security company that runs afoul of the backers of a new high-tech, top-secret prison, and many of his employees end up trapped inside. The production reportedly ran out of money half way through filming, necessitating a new deal with a Chinese company to finish production. These new money men insisted on adding a Chinese co-star, which required last-minute script re-writes, resulting in piecemeal movie that makes little sense and looks bargain-basement cheap. (3/10)

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I saw five movies over the last two weeks, four this week, one the week before.  Let's start with the first of these Spectre.  Unlike Skyfall, in which the first rate action sequences was actually tied to a plot that made some sense and had genuine emotional weight, this movie returns to the old action movie tropes.  In particular, Bond is allowed to say alive for no clear reason.  A clumsy attempt to introduce "Luke, I am your father," gravitas reads like a clumsy attempt to introduce "Luke, I am your father" gravitas. And granted it's amazing what Republicans will let Donald Trump get away with, the big plan is too obvious for alarm bells not to start ringing before hand.

The original The Longest Yard does showcase some of Burt Reynolds' charm and Robert Aldrich's skill.  On the other hand, it's about football, which I find the least interesting game in the world.  And if doing their best in the first half of the game only gets them within a couple of points of the other team, how can they throw the game for much of the second half, only to come back all the way in the end?  At Eternity's Gate isn't a bad movie.  But it suffers, like Lust for Life. in that I never doubted that Vincent Van Gogh was being played by a major American actor.  Also, it tends to showcase Van Gogh the erratic genius.  Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh is not an easily available film to see, but it's the better movie.

So the two movies of the fortnight are Girl with Hyacinths and Mirai.  The first is a 1950 Swedish film that has nothing to do with Ingmar Bergman.  But it is an intelligent, well acted and beautifully photographed film about a young woman who commits suicide and the neighbors who inquire after her.  Mirai tells a simple story, about a three year old boy who is not happy by the arrival of his baby sister.  Gradually he gets over it, and while the adventures he apparently encounters from family members past and present are not at Miyazaki's level, they are charming enough.

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I saw three movies last week:  two exercises in style and a sequel to a movie I'd never seen before.  Let's start off with Roma, the last movie I saw of 2018.  In many ways it's an impressive movie, beautifully shot, providing an indelible portrait of early seventies Mexico city.  Arguably it's a greater technical feat than Gravity, since there's no touch of CGI fakery, while the horizontal shifts back and forth have their own majesty.  A climactic sequence, which involves the maid protagonist rescues her wards caught in the current reminds me of scene in The Letter Never Sent (except that scene involved a tracking shot through a forest fire, not roaring waves).  I suppose I'm a little reserved since the maid is a bit opaque as a character and the seduced and abandoned story is not original. (Although the would be father's genuine nastiness in his penultimate scene does have some punch.)  I suppose a contrast with Tje Spirit of the Beehive is to Roma's discredit.  Ana Torrent plays a shy, quiet little girl, yet she provides a depth and strength beyond her years.  In comparison Yalitiza Aparicio is only competent.

My Twentieth Century has many things going for it.  It has beautiful black and white cinematography (the second movie this week), a fine recreation of fin de siecle Central Europe, a host of interesting ideas, and a charming performance from Dorota Segda as twin sisters separated as children.  Perhaps it needs more plot.  Perhaps I was expecting more from the Orient Express.  Interesting the movie is Hungarian, while Segda is a Polish actress while Oleg Yankovsky, best known as the lead in Nostalghia, plays Segda's lover.  Yet Hungarian is not a slavic language.  Oddly enough the movie of the week is Paddington 2.  It is surprisingly inventive, with a charming, lovely sequence near the beginning of the movie where Paddington imagines showing his aunt through a pop-up book about London.  The attitude of innocence is convincingly and amusingly portrayed.  And while a couple of plot twists are predictable the movie does end with Hugh Grant doing a song and dance number. 

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I saw four movies this week (none the week before), two from the year before, two from 1943.  Black Panther shares with Wonder Woman that it is more about the idea of a superhero not being about a white man than an entirely successful exercise.  Having said that, it certainly shows more skill in its battle scenes and the pseudo debate about power is handled better than the rather silly treatment of the first world war in Wonder Woman.  The Rider is the movie of the week.  It's apparently a lightly fictionalized story of the actor/protagonist for whom rodeo riding is basically a substitute for a career.  Except he's suffered an injury which makes future rodeo riding extremely unwise.  It certainly presents a striking picture of Western (and Indian reservation life) in it sense of detail and realism that shows the phoniness of movies like Hell or High Water or Wind River. 

Will I ever find 10 good films from 1943?  Lost Angel stars Margaret O'Brien as a foundling whom a medical institute decides to turn into a genius.  Not surprisingly, this is a silly idea and the movie is about how this all falls apart.  O'Brien, not surprisingly, is good as a small girl, but James Craig is quite mediocre as the cynical reporter who eventually becomes her father.  Thousands Cheer is best known as the MGM musical where Gene Kelly is allowed to dance once  If you wait for an hour you'll see it and it's pretty good.  But you could just look for it on youtube.  Made at a time when studio heads thought Americans wanted to see more Kathryn Grayson, this movie starring her as an army brat is not particularly interesting.  The MGM star show that takes up most of the second half of the picture is also underwhelming.  Yes Lena Horne gets to sing "Honeysuckle Rose," but viewers are more likely to remember a grisly sketch involving a leering Frank Morgan.

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