Saturday, August 8, 2020

Weekend Open Thread


28 comments:

  1. Good weekend to everyone. It was a busy week, so I needed the escape of some movies to get me through it. (Just a little bit of insomnia this morning.)

    WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN (1978) – This is an oh-so-1970s film. The main plot is about two former Marines who fought together in Vietnam getting involved in smuggling heroin. The main theme, though, is the disillusionment of the Vietnam era. These guys just do not give a damn anymore about what they do. Michael Moriarty and Nick Nolte ably play the vets taking a chance on drug smuggling. Nolte is memorably intense. As the title suggests, you will be hearing some Creedence Clearwater Revival songs in it. The lead performances and the striking cinematography are the primary reasons to watch it.

    SAMI BLOOD (2016, dir. Amanda Kernell) – A sad tale of a teenage Sami girl who is forced to choose which culture she wants to live in 1930s Sweden. The Sami, also know as Lapps, are a people who reside in northern Scandinavia. (Mikko probably knows that already.) The depiction of Swedish attitudes toward the Sami is pretty damning, and the treatment of the Sami still seems like a sensitive topic in Sweden.

    DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) – I took out my copy of Anchor Bay’s Ultimate Edition – purchased cheaply second-hand at FYE many years ago – wondering what to do with it. I had watched all the versions at least once and never connected with the film. Should I get rid of it? I decided to give the film another shot this week and put on the U.S. theatrical cut.

    It really clicked this time. Maybe it is living through this Covid-19 era that got me responding to the dread and sense of a world gone topsy-turvy that permeates Dawn of the Dead. Even the comic book adventure angle, the aspect that has always turned me off from the film, was not the distraction it has been. The characters, beyond the motorcycle gang, are all very engaging and well-defined. Ken Foree’s Peter particularly stands out, a man who does what he has to do to survive but not without being emotionally impacted by it all.

    I think I will keep the DAWN set a little longer.


    Last week I had a notable watch.

    ALUCARDA (1975, dir. Juan Moctezuma) РI remember reading an article here that discussed handshake movies. Alucarda is undoubtedly one of those for me. It is 77 minutes of weirdness, a heady Mexican m̩lange of surrealism, horror, homoeroticism and exploitation that could only have emerged from the 1970s. I adore it. The rebelliousness of its style and themes Рparticularly the anti-religion angle - are as provocative and challenging as that first watch. I am thinking about making Mexican horror films a theme for Scary Movie Month.

    Speaking of weirdness, I attended the Sunday screenings of Reel Weird Weekend at the Mahoning Drive-In. The two films shown were Italian prints of The Last Shark from 1981 and Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century from 1977. The Last Shark is a fun time, and Yeti is... what it is.

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    1. Saw Sami Blood in 2017 when it got a small theaterical release here, it's very good. And yes, the Sami are a minority people living in the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia, and the oppression towards them by the majority populations is a huge stain in our history. Americans may be able to relate...

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    2. The creation of a boarding school system for Sami children mirrors what the United States government set up for Native Americans. The purpose of either system was to destroy cultural links. It is not admirable aspect of history in any case.

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  2. Did anybody get anything from the recent Kino Lorber sale? I picked up Charley Varrick, Cannibal Apocalypse, and the AIP version of Black Sabbath (a personal favorite).

    I have also recently purchased some Mondo Macabro releases: Alucarda (thrilled to finally own it), Symptoms, Inquisition, and Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death.

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    1. I picked up a few favorites and CHARLEY VARRICK, which was a blind buy that has quickly become a favorite. I also picked up the Ida Lupino box set. I really enjoyed THE HITCH-HIKER and NOT WANTED.

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    2. Most of my purchases were blind buys. I still have not had a chance to see any of them yet. I did think about that Ida Lupino box set while browsing for the sale.

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  3. Anyone got a good memory? Patrick might beable to help me if he sees this


    What episode of Killerpov had the conversation about the two Directors of Things meeting randomly at Jumpcutcafe
    Tricky I know but theres a lot of knowledge on here between you all. I have faith someone might remember

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  4. My Twentieth Century (1989, dir. Ildiko Enyeti)

    A Hungarian drama about twin sisters coming of age at the turn of the century. One becomes a high-class prostitute and the other a reluctant anarchist revolutionary. It's shot in 4:3 black and white, which lends itself well to be intercut with film footage of that era.

    I don't know if I truly wrapped my brain around this one, it does a lot of jumping around, in location and in tone. Thomas Edison and Nicolai Tesla are minor characters, and there's a very small element of science fiction that breaks up what is an otherwise grounded reality. Given the release year, I can't tell if it was produced under Communist control, or just outside of it.

    There were some pervasive themes are about change, the future, and the way it continually confronts the immediate past. But I was more confounded by this film than entertained. There only other Hungarian film I've seen was The Turin Horse from 2011, and I still can't say I understand their national voice.

    The Tax Collector (2020, dir. David Ayers)

    Quite a change of pace: Ayers' first film since Bright (woooo boy!). Honestly, I've already written him off as a purveyor of dark, humorless, masochistic action films. I don't think I can ever forgive him for whatever he did to Schwarzennegar in "Sabotage," one of the most unpleasant and ugly films I've seen in years. Fury was the one bright spot in his filmography, which was why I was interested in Shia LaBeouf returning to work with Ayers to play "Creeper."

    Upwardly-mobile gangster David (played capably by Bobby Soto) and his enforcer "Creeper," go on their rounds collecting the "tax" that the big Mexican cartel imposes on all of the street gangs in L.A. Things go south for family man David when a new player, Conejo, enters the game and threatens all that David holds dear. With this set up, the movie almost writes itself. And for that, it's almost not worth the price of admission.

    I had hoped that LeBeouf, who has had a stellar record of intriguing roles as of late (Honey Boy and Peanut Butter Falcon), would lend something special to Creeper. Alas, the character is written with only a single-dimension. It's clear that he's put thought into the internal life of the character, and you can see that in his performance (and especially his eyes), but it's not enough to add more gravity to a story this vapid and rote.

    The Magic Christian (1969, dir. Joseph McGrath)

    A Ringo Starr movie? Yes! Peter Sellers teams up with the Liverpudlian drummer for a takedown of the idle rich and British culture. Sellers plays Sir Guy Grand, a wealthy prankster desperate to find an heir to his fortue. He meets transient Youngman (Starr) sleeping in a park and two take to each other immediately. There's also a slew of cameos including Richard Attenborough, Christopher Lee, Yuel Brenner, Raquel Welch and John Cleese.

    Cleese's inclusion makes sense, because although the script was penned by Terry Southern and the director, it was punched up by Graham Chapman and David Cleese. The "Pythonized" scenes in the film seem pretty evident, as situations that are merely camp evolve into true absurdity. Ironically, Cleese's role is played as the straightest in the movie.

    I imagine this movie was considered quite trangressive for its time, and the comedy works in that Benny Hill/Carry On British slapstock mode. Peter Sellers is the bright center and nearly every amusing bit is from his trademark goofiness. Sellers seems to be improvising a lot of here, which makes sense given that he too gets a writing credit. I'm just impressed by how expensive this movie looks for a British film, for 1968, and for a movie for which middle-class moviegoers wouldn't have had patience. Strong recommend if you are down for that brand of madcap comedy.

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    1. When Ringo was filming The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, Sellers asked him one day what the Beatles were working on. Ringo gave him a cassette of rough mixes from the White Album. When Sellers died, the tape was auctioned off and became "The Peter Sellers Tape," a popular bootleg.

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    2. Where would you rank Ringo's acting talent compared to the other Beatles?

      He was fine in this, but the role mostly required him to react mildly amused and repeat what Sellers says.

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  5. Hi everyone! Hope everyone is doing well this weekend. A few selections from my watches from the last two weeks (all but the last paragraph were first time watches):

    Eureka released a three-pack of Universal/Edgar Allan Poe/Bela Lugosi movies on Blu-ray: Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat and The Raven. I watched them all inside two days after getting the set in the mail. The Black Cat is definitely my favorite of the bunch, but all three were really good. Amazing what they got away with pre-Code. Plus the commentary track for The Black Cat by Gregory William Mank was very enlightening, I should probably listen to the others too.

    Took a trip to the movies last week (the theaters opened here a few weeks ago with limited seating). Unhinged is kind of a modern day retelling of a 70's exploitation movie and Russell Crowe makes the titular character actually pretty scary. It's trash, but I kinda loved it. The High Note isn't the most original movie, but it's highly watchable, mostly because the cast is so good. Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross are great as the leads, and Ice Cube, June Diane Raphael and Bill Pullman steal the show whenever they're on screen.

    Blank Check, my second favorite podcast, are starting a Gina Prince-Bythewood series, so I watched Love & Basketball. It's a really engaging film with a great central performance by Sanaa Lathan. I'd barely even heard Prince-Bythewood's name before this, but now I'm excited to go through her (short) filmography.

    I'm not a big romantic comedy guy, but Set It Up made me think I could become one. Really loved that one. Julie & Julia has one of the most over-the-top performances from Meryl Streep, and I loved it. The rest of the movie was fine. Hearts Beat Loud, and especially Nick Offerman in it, is entirely charming.

    Ghost Protocol still rules, and Night at the Museum is still fine. Could've done with less Ricky Gervais though. Also rewatched some MCU movies, as I often do, because they always go down smooth.

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    1. I did like Hearts Beat Loud, but I was amused that the change agent in the film is an algorithm.

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    2. The Black Cat is among the the strangest pre-code films ever made and all the better for it. It is undoubtedly the best of the Lugosi/Karloff pairings.

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  6. I've still been holding off on buying a lot of stuff but I did pick up Mr. Vampire which was just released by Eureka. It's not so much that I felt like I had to have it now, but it's just the slightly more obscure thing that I wanted to support so I can hopefully get more of it. Eureka and 88-Films have both been doing good work with 2k and 4k remasters of Hong Kong films, but while stuff like Jackie Chan movies are no-brainers, Mr. Vampire is a little more off the beaten path even though it would largely define the latter half of Lam Ching-ying's career up until his untimely death.

    Taken by itself, Mr. Vampire is a solid comedy/horror/action movie (leaning more heavily into the comedy than anything else though). Master Gau and his two students deal with matters of the occult. Most of their problems are vampire related but there's also a subplot here with a seductive spirit as well. It's usually through the actions of the students, one of whom is more bumbling than the other, that hi-jinks ensue. Vampires escape, vampires hop around (they're those kind of vampires), there's some fighting, there's some fun, and there's a lot of rice.

    Sammo Hung produced this movie but it was directed by Ricky Lau who would go on to direct a bunch sequels and similar movies. I've mentioned here before that I'm a big fan of Lam Ching-ying. His range isn't on display as much here as he's generally the straight man who has to clean up after the antics of his students, but he's still someone that I just like seeing in movies.

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  7. Has anyone seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote? I think it's right up there with Terry Gilliam's bests, Fisher King, Brazil, etc. It had very little fanfare when it was released and I haven't heard anyone else talk about it. I really liked it!

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    1. Yes, i great return to form for Gilliam, after a few... disappointing... movie. Too bad the bluray is lacking good extras

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    2. It is probably not among Gillian's best, but it's a good movie. Adam Driver made my laugh out loud several times with his frustrated, egotistic director character.

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    3. Saw this during its limited theatrical run. More of a curio after all the effort and behind-the-scenes drama to get it done, the film is fine but clearly suffers from limited production and Gilliam's attention not being 100% focused on the story. It's fine for Gilliam completists, but it's closer to "Tideland" than "Brazil" or his Python work.

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  8. VIVARIUM (2020) A nifty little Twilight Zone-ish flick, although it might be a little too much for some folks in these quarantine times. Imogen Poots continues to be great, and the movie manages to put Jesse Eisenberg’s unlikability to good use. It’s not perfect, giving up its “game” way too early, but still worth a look.

    VAST OF NIGHT (2020) This one reminds me of Ty West’s THE INKEEPERS, in that just hanging out with the characters is more entertaining than the spooky stuff. Sierra McCormick is especially good in the movie, and I like her Tom Cruise-style running.

    DORA THE EXPLORER (2019) A real oddity. The idea is supposed to be that Dora is a teen now and go on “real” adventures, yet the movie constantly calls back to the cartoon, often to parody it. This is another case of it-becomes-a-different-movie-every-ten-minutes syndrome.

    THE GOLDEN CHILD (1986) "Brother Noombs!"

    ICE PIRATES (1984) And then there’s this movie. We need a whole 12-part Netflix documentary series detailing exactly how and why this thing got made.

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    1. The Ice Pirates is a fun flick. I watched it for the first time a couple of years not knowing what I was getting into. Despite all of the silly sci-fi elements, I appreciated how the pirate narrative still shines through. Quite a cast, too.

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    2. THE VAST OF NIGHT is my new favorite “It’s 2 AM and I can’t sleep” movie. It’s like a lullaby.

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  9. BACK TO THE FUTURE: this holds up except I wish there were more scenes with Doc and Marty and less with Biff and the 50s. I have no idea what the hell that actor playing Biff is doing... Also, I can't tell if the moral is "Money=happiness" or "don't bang your mom"?

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  10. Has anyone picked up the Sony Columbia Classics 4k blu ray set yet? I just bought it from Ebay since it seems to be sold out everywhere else. What are your thoughts? I'm really excited about this, and Criterion's new release of War of the Worlds. (Thanks JB!) I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

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  11. I’ve held off getting that because I’m not in love with all the movies in the set; I’m waiting for Columbia to bust them out and sell them individually.

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    1. I generally agree with your strategy. I think I just wanted the whole package with the book. I'm not in love with all the movies either. Some I still haven't seen.

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