Saturday, April 3, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Godzilla vs Kong was much better than King Of The Monsters (but i like it). I'm still bugged by the part of Millie Bobby Brown, but it's not as bad as in KotM where she was just plain annoying

    1. Saw this Thursday night. Was going to watch it on HBO Max, but (a) AMC A-List allowed me to see it (b) in 3D, the first big theatrical feature to come out in 3D since the pandemic. Yes, "Godzilla vs. Kong" is better than "KOTM" but only after the first 40-45 minutes (soon after the first titan brawl in the sea) made me hate these humans almost as much as the Monarch people in the previous one. Then Godzilla goes into that tunnel toward you-know-where, and that's when the on-screen mental retardation of what I was watching punched through to the other side and fried my limited critical faculties. Whenever Zilla and Kong are trading blows or we're in the 'A' plot about the search for the Titan's source of energy "GvK" is a typical braindead summer blockbuster, but one that at least knows its dumb fan and embraces it. And who knew there'd be a time when we missed those like the past 12 months. :'(

      But then there's the freaking 'C' plot with Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison literally stumbling their way to the source of the problem (while being the least funny comedic relief ever in any movie ever!). And don't get me started on the 'B' plot involving Demián Bichir playing Elon Musk, which is so transparent it robs the opening minutes of any drama or tension. Why is Kyle Chandler even in this movie where his role (and Lance Reddick's) has been reduced to almost nothing? Anything involving the 'B' and 'C' plots is hot garbage, but at least we have the CG gold of the fleeting moments when Kong and Godzilla are directed by Adam Wingard as wrestling all-star champs. Glad I saw this in 3D (even if most of the darkened indoor/nighttime scenes render the 3D effect useless), but if you have HBO Max it'd be a sin to reward braindead filmmaking this bottom-feeding stupid with any money.

    2. Yes to everything you said. I too had doubt with the first half, thinking we were getting a second KotM, but then it falls into place and all is good.

      I rewatched KotM this morning, and damn MBB is so annoying and advance nothing to the story.

      Speaking of A, B and C plots, i'm tired of movies and tv shows being built that way. Spend 15 minutes here, spend 10 minute there, go back, rinse, repeat. And if you're lucky they get together by the end to have what might look like a single coherent story. The format always existed i guess, but now it's not even close to being suble and feels more like they're padding for time

  2. So many movies watched, so little time/space. Shall we? :-)

    I expected Azazel Jacobs' FRENCH EXIT (2021, theater) to be Michelle Pfeiffer's glorious return to the 'filty rich people being awful' and a vehicle for her chemistry with Lucas Hedges. But screenwriter Patrick DeWitt (adapting his own novel) has other darkly comedic ideas about what happens to this mother-son duo when their diminishing fortunes force them to move into a soon-to-be-crowded apartment in Paris. Minor supporting actors (Imogen Poots, Danielle MacDonald, Susan Coyne, etc.) gain prominence as the plot unfolds, and by the end "French Exit" resembles a comedic ensemble straight out of a mid-90's Woody Allen film. Worth seeing even when the narrative pushes its luck by going one step too many into fantasyland territory.

    Walter Murch's RETURN TO OZ (1985, Disney+) is as fucked-up and not-for-impressionable-kids weird as you'd expect a sequel to the 1939 "Wizard of Oz" movie when the filmmakers try to dance around the copyright minefield that are L. Frank Baum's novels and MGM's cinematic version. You know Dorothy ("The Craft's" Fairuza Balk) isn't in Kansas anymore when you're doubting if the world of Oz she travels might be the result of electric shock therapy. Nothing about this '85 sequel (thematically a remake) tops or even comes close to the timelessness of the '39 "Oz," although I'd argue that chicken Billina (voiced by Denise Bryer) is an improvement over Toto. Other than nightmare fuel and a source for internet memes, "Return to Oz" is just not a fun watch unless you're with a group of like-minded Jury Room 4.0 viewers. ;-)

    My Oscar bait radar was tingling when Florian Zeller's THE FATHER (2021) started and Anthony Hopkins was seemingly allowed to show-off his old-man histrionics. But as anyone who has seen the movie knows, the gradual reveal of what is really happening makes you realize the director (who also wrote/directed the London theatrical play this is based on) is using cinematic language to reveal its particular mise-en-scene. And even though there are a few embarrassing moments (sorry, but Hannibal Lecter breaking down and saying "I want my mommy!" is too much!), "The Father" ends up as an underrated and excellent depiction of the true horror that is losing your mind to the horrors of dementia and/or old age. Highly recommended, not just for Hopkins but for the two Olvias (Williams and particularly Colman), Imogen Poots (again!) and even Rufus Sewell ("Gods of Egypt") crushing it in the compelling acting department.

    Not all AMC A-List blind theatrical viewings can be winners. DARK STATE (2021) tricked me with a paragraph description that made it seem like a taut low-budget thriller. Instead I stumbled into a zero-budget, Q-Anon-type conspiracy thriller in which a small newspaper reporter (Melissa Connell) looking at the accident of a celebrity she knew opens up to reveal... Not gonna spoil it here, but I didn't know movies these cheap-looking and badly-made (we're talking close to "Birdemic" and "The Room"-caliber acting and looks) could still book spots at a national theater chain. Guess COVID left AMC's cup bare for little flicks like these to gain national distribution, but this is just plain bad. "Dark State" instantly rockets to the top of my worst movies of 2021, and I bet it stays there 'till the end of the year. :-(

  3. Continuing my list of watches (including ones I meant to post last weekend but couldn't due to last-minute errands)...

    ... THE COURIER (2021) is your typical well-made, well-acted, historically-accurate (up to a point) British drama that leaves you feeling like you've learned something. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a reluctant British salesman recruited by British Intelligence and the CIA (represented by Angus Wright and Rachel Brosnahan, respectively) to contact a U.S.S.R. Politburo member (an excellent Merab Ninidze) willing to share Nikita Khrushchev's secrets in the months prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60's. Cumberbatch could play this role in his sleep, but he and the entire cast commit to the drama of an everyday man gradually befriending (then trying to save) his Russian source. Worth seeing, but not really worth a trip to the theater unless you're doing an A-List double bill on a Thursday afternoon.

    As low-budget quirky indie romantic movies go, LONG WEEKEND (2021) is fine and milks for all its worth the chemistry between leads Stephen Basilone (who also wrote and directed) and Zoe Chao. Though their cute meet and dialogue flirts with mublecore tropes, Jeremy and Vienna are a likable couple that you root for even after the plot introduces a low-fi plot twist that sets an additional ticking clock to Jeremy's refusal to answer his doctor's constant phone calls. Damon Wayans Jr. and Casey Wilson show up for comedic supporting relief, but the many movie references Jeremy and Vienna bring up in conversation are "Long Weekend's" personal highlight. Worth seeing if you can rent it at home or catch it on streaming.

    Somehow I walked into an AMC Dolby Prime screening of Ilya Naishuller's NOBODY (2021) not knowing anything about it, including that Christopher Lloyd gets his best and meatiest big-screen role in ages. If you can get past the criminal underuse of Connie Nielsen and Michael Ironside (not to mention reducing RZA's role to basically a glorified cameo) and can accept Bob Odenkirk as a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing badass, "Nobody" makes a great build-up from its humble home invasion start to a full-on one-man war against the Russian mob. You wouldn't expect anything less from the director of "Hardcore Henry," who reigns-in his style and balances the bloody shoot-out with some well-earned comedic beats. Worth seeing in theaters for the big screen experience, particularly the crunchy sounds of bones snapping in Dolby Digital. :-P

    Ching Siu-Tung's DUEL TO THE DEATH (1983, Amazon Prime) suffers from a severe case of too many scenes of kung-fu men (and one solitary woman) walking/talking for lengthy periods, then an amazing but too-brief action scene breaks the lull before going back to talking/walking. Even at 86 minutes you feel you haven't seen enough action, but when the ninjas do show up their far-fetched tricks (flying, burrowing underground, exploding!) you'll go wild. Plot is "Mortal Kombat"-levels basic (the best fighter from Japan and China will fight to determine whose martial arts technique is better) and the fighting your typical low-budget Golden Harvest variety. Great leading men (Norman Chu, Damian Lau) and some epic set-pieces (a decapitated head talking trash before exploding, the final showdown in a rock hill near the ocean, etc.) go a long way to make the slow portions of "Duel to the Death" worth sitting through. Recommended.

    Also caught Steve Barron's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990, HBO Max) with the Forever Cinematic commentary track. It's fine, but that deathly lull after the turtles reunite in the farm before going back to rescue their sensei always puts me to sleep and messes my re-synching. Shame, but most of this flick (particularly Elias Koteas, young Sam Rockwell and the practical special effects) holds up surprisingly well.

    1. I've been waiting for Nobody. I'm a big fan of Hardcore Henry, because i don't think it's the future of cinema, but a fun and weird experiment

  4. SOUL (2020) Pixar movies are equal parts praised and criticized for how sad they can be, and this one really digs in on the sadness. I’m going to need to see it a few more times to really unpack everything it’s trying to say. But, I really liked it and I'm looking forward to those rewatches.

    MULAN (2020) This one wants to be both high fantasy and a gritty (yet bloodless) war flick. I’m not sure the two halves ever really meld, but there was some cool stuff along the way. A lot of people didn’t like the addition of the witch, but I thought she was the most interesting character.

    DUEL TO THE DEATH (1982) Bonkers crazy old-school ninja movie. Two swordsmen prepare for a duel, uncovering a conspiracy as they do so. If I were to tell you some of the weird crap that goes on in this, you’d never believe me, so I’m telling you see it for yourself.

    THE LAST UNICORN (1982) Here’s a great example of filmmakers doing a lot with very little. Despite being clearly low-budget, several shots in the movie look all painter-ly and really capture that sense of wonder that we want from high fantasy. Good stuff.

    PSYCHO GOREMAN (2020) Can I get a “Heck, yeah!” from the crowd? This movie knows exactly what it is, and runs with it.

    WHEELS ON MEALS (1984) I suspect director Sammo Hung meant make a “real” movie, rather than 90 minutes of fights. The final brawl is impressive, but there’s some filler getting there. This movie is beloved among Jackie Chan fans, but it never goes over the top like you want it to.

    RETURN TO OZ (1985) As a horror movie, this is awesome. As a whimsical children’s film, it’s… uh…

    1. Looks like i'm the only one who really like Return To Oz. I even got the bluray

    2. Man, that one-on-one fight between Jackie Chan and Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez toward the end feels like they spliced a scene from "The Raid 2: Redemption" into a Disney flick. It's bloodless, but the intensity of the fight feels at odds with the clownish tone of the rest of the picture. 😎👍

  5. THE NUNS OF SAINT ARCHANGEL (1973) – I dug this dvd out of my collection for the first time in many years. Though I have seen this categorized as “nunsploitation”, SAINT ARCHANGEL is far too classy a production to fall under that label. There is a serious historical drama overshadowing the exploitative elements, and the mise-en-scene and cinematography is top-notch. The Catholic Church of the 16th century is certainly not presented in a favorable light.

    THE MAD MAGICIAN (1954) – Despite the ending not making it onto the DVR, this was still a thrill to watch. The cast find the right comedic notes in their performances for the film's tone. Vincent Price really got a chance to show his acting chops as the titular mad magician. I would characterize this as more of a crime film than horror.