Saturday, February 1, 2020

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Seen a ton of movies lately. In no particular order:

    Oz Perkins' GRETEL AND HANSEL (2020): Nice to see the director of the underrated "Blackcoat's Daughter" helming a rating-pushing mainstream 'PG-13' horror flick that leans heavily on indie/artsy techniques. Alice Krige feels like she has stepped out from Hulu's "Handmaid's Tale" universe, and Sophia Lillis proves her star-making role in "It Chapter One" was no fluke. This looks/feels a lot like "The VVitch Junior," but that's good company to keep.

    Liliana Cavani's THE NIGHT PORTER (1974, Criterion): I have a soft spot for older movies by female directors without a trace of perceptible feminism... and Charlotte Rampling. The two combine in this often harrowing tale of a WWII concentration camp survivor and a Nazi officer rekindling their... ahem, relationship. Tough watch, but the clinical observation of self-destructive compulsive behavior is appreciated.

    Been in a Bollywood 2020 theatrical kick lately (thank you, AMC A-List). PANGA is a simplistic-but-decent sports tale of a former female Kabaddi player who retakes the sport at the behest of her movie-cute young son egging her to stage a media-ready comeback. It was fun that the lead character's husband (Jassie Gill's Prashant) looks/acts like a Hindi cross between young David Arquette and Owen Wilson. TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR is a heavily-fictionalized action flick about a 17th century warrior. It's like the best parts of "300" and "The Great Wall," except with a cool bad guy (Saif Ali Khan's Udaybhan) who'd twist his mustache if he had one. Didn't feel like I wasted my time with either flick, but I wouldn't recommend you went out of your way to watch 'em.

    Elem Klimov COME AND SEE (1985, TCM): Young naïve kid (Aleksey Kravchenko) joins the Russian resistance as Germany invades Belorusia in 1943. Great pyrotechnic explosions (with camera work to match), but way too many characters yelling/staring directly at the camera while music blares on and "THE HORROR OF WAR" supposedly registers on their faces.

    THE RHYTHM SECTION (2020): Time for Blake Lively to do the "pretty actor makes herself look ugly" thingie, this time at the behest of the James Bond producers (Wilson and Broccoli) trying to mix the tropes of "Bourne Identity" and "La Femme Nikita" into a potential sequel-ready franchise. Jude Law is playing almost the same character he did in "Captain Marvel," and the bordering-on-fetishistic rehash of the lead character's tragedy (soft focus family flashbacks galore!) to justify her revenge actions are insulting and boring. Pass.

  2. Because when it rains it pours, more recently-watched movies!

    Makoto Shinkai's WEATHERING WITH YOU (2020): I named "Your Name" my personal No. 1 movie of 2017. With better visuals and an even crazier love story that at times recalls Godard's "lovers on the run" 60's cinema (right down to the use of a gun as a threat... in a 'PG' flick!) at its most "logic be damned" creative, this is animated movie making at its finest. Visuals alone warrant the big screen experience.

    SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (2005, 35mm, Nitehawk Cinema): Sold out midnight screening. From the Australian foster parents of an English-speaking Korean child to a finale that feels like "Dexter" meets "Audition," "Lady Vengeance" kept finding ways to make revenge for the wrongs to the lead character hilarious, pathetic, stylish as heck (a little too up-its-own-ass stylish, which beats the alternative) and shocking. Only "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" left for me to complete the trilogy.

    An unplanned Alida Valli double feature last week. At Brooklyn's Alamo Drafthouse I caught a screening of Italian exploitation all-star KILLER NUN (1979). Valli plays the Mother Superior who pays no attention to the pleas of Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) about the latter losing it after an operation removes a tumor. Requisite number of topless nuns, violence and whodunit giallo abound, but the final reveals at the end felt perfunctory due to predictability. Then went home and found the SUSPIRIA (1977) 4K UHD BLU-RAY that I ordered from Amazon waiting for me. Damn, this transfer looks/sounds like a million bucks and makes an already great-looking/sounding classic even better. Was gonna save it for another day, but I ended watching the movie twice with the commentary tracks that same night. I'd never made the connection that the same Alida Valli from "The Third Man" plays the butch prison warden-looking witch at the dance academy. Heck, the whole cast is as outstanding as the movie they're in. Pricey 4K upgrade (without a BD copy of the movie, boo Synapse!), but so worth it. :-)

    To all the people who were bitching last year that Guy Ritchie sold out by writing/directing the Disney live-action remake of "Aladdin," THE GENTLEMEN (2020) is your imperfect-but-amusing reminder that the former's giant box office success paves the way for the handful of the latter to be made. With an impish level of self-awareness (almost crossing into meta) Ritchie seeks to recapture the fun of his British gangster flicks of yore. Like most directors/actors crossing into middle age, though, "The Gentlemen" can't help but reflect on everyone in your immediate inner circle growing old and having trouble with the impatient up-and-coming new generation. Colin Farrell continues to be the funniest guy to get big laughs from playing deadpan without a wink, and Henry Golding is so good he made me forget "Last Christmas" (thank you!). Hugh Grant is having a blast and (co-producer) McConaughey is on auto-pilot charmed mode. A wanker of a good time if you lower your expectations.

    Whoever at Pluto TV decided to have the MST3K and RIFFTRAX channels next to one another is evil. I've literally had to unplug the TV from the wall to concentrate on work, or I'd leave those channels on 24/7. Too many flicks watched to mention: MST3K #1009: HAMLET ('Sleeep!), RIFFTRAX: FUTURE FORCE (David Carradine with a Mazinger Z-like flying fist!), RIFFTRAX: THE GUY FROM HARLEM (that girlfriend Al keeps throwing from her own apartment... LOL!), RIFFTRAX: ATTACK FROM SPACE (silly Japanese alien invasion flick from the 1950's), MST3K #904: WEREWOLF ('Yeah, champagne!'), etc.

    1. I recorded The Night Porter, J.M. It has been a decade since I first watched it, so I am curious how I react now. It left me surprisingly indifferent that first watch. It has been a long time since I watched a Dirk Bogarde, anyway. He is one of my favorite actors.

  3. Catching up on 2019 movies. Yesterday: Little Women (just premiered here) and Shazam! (just got added to Netflix). Little Women was amazing and Shazam's really fun! Today's plan: Parasite (just premiered here) and Uncut Gems (just got added to Netflix).

    Currently watching the original Star Wars with the Blank Check Podcast commentary that was released today (on their Patreon).

    And just bought tickets to a genre festival that's showing the new Color Out of Space plus two old slashers, My Bloody Valentine and Don't Go in the Woods, two weeks from now. So really looking forward to that.

    1. Is the "My Bloody Valentine" screening the theatrical cut or the unrated gorier cut? Here in the States Scream! Factory is about to release both cuts of the movie on restored Blu-ray discs. :-)

    2. According to the festival's website, it's the Director's Cut. So I'm guessing that means the latter? I've never seen any cut of the movie before.

    3. Director's Cut is the gorier unrated one. Paraphrasing Pinhead: 'We have such cool shit to show you.' :-)

    4. I'm eagerly waiting for it. They're calling it a Valentine's Day Special, which is why they chose that particular film. :D

  4. It's been awhile (it's been awhile) since I've posted regularly on here. My job was keeping me busy enough as it was, but lately I've been temporarily managing a 2nd theater so I've had extra work on my plate. But I've been watching stuff lately so here are a few of the highlights of my past week:

    Kill Chain (2019)

    Patrick's infectious love of Nicolas Cage got me to check this out when I saw it on Prime and I had a good time with it. There's actually a long stretch in the middle where Cage is absent from the movie, but there's a "one thing leads to another" style of storytelling during this bit where we get these little vignettes that end up leading us back to Cage's story. There's no real big names in the supporting cast, but a lot of them are recognizable from various TV or cable shows and they generally do a solid job. Pretty fun and I hope Patrick ends up writing something about it (if he hasn't done so already somewhere, I have a hard time keeping track).

    Still Crazy (1998)

    Had to buy this digitally through Amazon since it hasn't been released on blu ray. It's not a movie I think about a lot, but for whatever reason I love movies about fictional bands, and for obvious reasons I love Bill Nighy (because he's always great in whatever movie he's in). I don't think the marketing at the time did this movie any favors as it the review blurb they went with was "This year's answer to the Full Monty" which it really isn't. It's not even especially funny a lot of the time as the major plot point in this is the original lead singer who died of a drug overdose and how that affected his brother (also in the band) and the rest of the band. It's not Sing Street, or That Thing You Do, or Almost Famous, or the Commitments, but there's a charm to it and I think it perfectly hits its final note.

    The Walking Target (1960)

    This was a good one for the end of my days off before the start of my work week. It's a nice, light crime drama which I watched at random on Amazon Prime. A guy gets out of jail after 5 years for robbing an armored car. He stashed the money which was never recovered, and both his accomplices in the robbery are dead, but his time in jail has maybe changed him more than he realizes and as he faces betrayal from the people supposedly close to him he's faced with some decisions to make on how he wants to live. I don't recognize any of the actors here, or the director for that matter, but at 75 minutes, it's an easy watch.

    Not going to dwell on it but I also watched Zig Zag (2002) on Prime. David Goyer's directorial debut and starring Smallville's Sam Jones III who plays an autistic teen (which was what made this movie hard to watch), I was lured in by the promise of Wesley Snipes but he's actually not in it all that much. John Leguizamo and Natasha Lyonne are kind of a consolation prize I guess. Overall though, this one just didn't work for me.

  5. I love a theater manager who unwinds from work by watching movies on TV. :-D

    1. Heh, yeah I miss my pre-General Manager days when I was paid hourly and was just a manager in charge of the projection booth. I used to get paid to watch movies a day or two before release. These days I'm on salary and spend 45-50 hours a week at theaters so I'm not always enthused to spend more time in one unless there's something I really want to watch.

      There's also not a whole lot in the theater right now that I haven't watched yet but want to see. This also reminds me that I miss Riske and Alejandra's Random Thoughts column on the upcoming quarter of movies.

  6. Good weekend to everyone.

    Time did not allow me to watch many films this week. I got around to a few of them.

    TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) - A supremely entertaining non-PC jungle adventure full of pre-code surprises. I really had a good time with this. The climactic "battle" at the conclusion is unique. Well worth a watch.

    AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)- The sections leading up to The Exorcist ripoff ending are a enjoyable. The portrayal of the murderous son was very unnerving, and there is plenty of cheesy dialogue to (almost) chuckle at. That ending is a bit of a let-down.

    DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985)- I caught this on television without knowing anything about it and was pleasantly surprised. Miranda Richardson gives a great performance as a woman of questionable background who gets involved with an aristocrat after WWII. It is an interesting evocation of post-war England.

  7. Saw Gretel and Hansel. I'm a big fan of Osgood Perkins and his direction is beautiful, atmospheric and at times genuinely creepy (especially for a PG-13 rating). The score is great too but the movie isn't, unfortunately. It really meanders, drags and feels more like 2 hours than 90 minutes. After a promising 1st act it screeches to a halt with way too many dragged out scenes of dialog and not enough "spookiness". Still, I will always see whatever Oz does next and look forward to whatever it is.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.