Saturday, May 15, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. I skipped last week, so today we're going whole hog with two weeks' worth of movies. Hold tight!

    Agree with everything Patrick said in his review of Guy Ritchie's WRATH OF MAN (2021). It doesn't re-invent the wheel, but it's patient building a head of steam toward a satisfying finale if you've ever seen either a revenge or heist flick. Even when I started rolling my eyes at the predictable beats (including the dreaded "Three Months Earler," "Two Weeks Later," etc. chronology), the acting and filmmaking kept me engaged. Fans of Netflix's "Mindhunter" will get a kick from Holt McCallany sharing scenes with a committed, joke-free Jason Statham, plus a boatload of supporting actors (like Jeffrey Donovan in his best post-"Burn Notice" role ever) also get to shine. Better than "Armoured" at depicting armored truck culture? Don't know, but in my Dolby Cinema screening it was definitely the LOUDEST! :-P

    Speaking of Dolby Cinema, AMC recently had a week-long revival of Edgar Wright's SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) to celebrate the movie's 10th anniversary. I've seen it 3 or 4 times and couldn't bring myself to like it, but watching it alone in an empty theater something clicked that never did before. Maybe because gaming culture has taken an even bigger hold of geekdom (including me playing the cult videogame spawned from the "Scott Pilgrim" IP) or because it now feels vintage... but I fucking loved it! I completely forgot Chris Evans was one of Ramona's evil boyfriends, and seeing Jason Schwartzman play the equivalent of a final boss to near-perfection made me swoon. It still pisses me off that Scott doesn't end with Knives at the end, but that's Hollywood. Remastered 4K UHD is in the works, and I shall have it. :-D

    Two recent group rewatches on Facebook's Jury Room 4.0 gave me renewed appreciation for Stan Winston's work in the 1980's. DEAD AND BURIED (1981, Amazon Prime) is clearly a low-budget movie that cuts corners on the cinematography (every frame looks like long-lost photographs of your dead grandparents), acting and even the writing. Except for Jack Albertson gloriously hamming it up in his last on-screen movie role, the movie's slow-unfolding plot could have used a few more passes through the typewriter. But whenever you need a "Silent Hill"-ish nurse to stab a dying patient in the eye with a needle or corpses to show decomposition, Winston delivers the goods. An imperfect but delightful slice of early 80's budget horror.

    Ditto for James Cameron's ALIENS (1986, Blu-ray), except the increased budget ($18.5 million, compared with "Dead and Buried's" $3 mil) still fell way short of the grand vision Cameron had for the franchise. Marvel as Winston & Co. make half-a-dozen detailed Alien suits look like dozens. I can't think of any other movie where the many close-ups of the sweaty characters are each suitable for movie-poster framing. So many great actors (Weaver, Biehn, Paxton, Henriksen, Reiser, etc.), so many iconic characters (Vasquez, Bishop, Newt, etc.), so much memorable dialogue ("Not bad for a human."). Warning: any group viewing of "Aliens" among cinephiles is likely to de-evolve into a drunken quote fest. Anything wrong with that? ;-)

    Rewatched D̶r̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶F̶l̶o̶y̶d̶ Claudio Fragasso's TROLL 2 (1990, HBO Max) with the Simplistic Review Commentary Track. I wish DJ, Matthew and Justin would let the movie dialogue play out more. Their constant talking means they skip over some of "Troll 2's" better (!) lines because they don't even hear them. Alas, even going on visuals alone this is still a hell of a so-bad-it's-entertaining gawk fest.

    1. "Fans of Netflix's "Mindhunter" will get a kick from Holt McCallany sharing scenes with a committed, joke-free Jason Statham"

      The ONLY reason i'll watch that movie

    2. Didn't even know Bill Tench was in the movie until he showed up early on. I squealed lile a little girl! 🤩😃

  2. I didn't plan it at all, but somehow ended up watching three new-in-theaters movies in a row that featured the 1:33:1 aspect ratio. Thank you, Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel"? ;-)

    Speaking of Anderson, Ben Sharrock's LIMBO (2021) has clear influences from Wes' latter work. African and Muslim refugees are stuck in a Scottish island waiting for their asylum requests to be processed, alternating between laugh-out loud ridiculousness and pathos-heavy melodrama. Amir El-Masry's Omar (a musician carrying around his gigantic odu case everywhere he goes) is both straight man to his ridiculous surroundings and dramatic avatar to the plight any immigrant can relate to. Vikash Bhai almost steals the movie as Farhad, a very Nick Offerman-like Afghan soul that uses bootleg "Friends" DVD's from the "donation center" to tailor his future. It gets pretty grim at some spots, but "Limbo" is no misery porn. It's really deadpan hilarious early on, which makes the dramatic beats later on sting a little harder. Worth seeing.

    I got a chance to return to Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema with a screening of THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS (2021). Made in 2019 and picked by NEON for a 2020 release that was pushed back to a May 14 limited release this year, this keenly-observed drama about the struggling marriage of a young couple with four kids in rural Utah has very strong "There Will Be Blood" influences (particularly a jarring music score). I went in blind and got more from the experience than I bargained for, but I could see some people either hating or not caring what writer/director Robert Machoian (2015's "God Bless The Child") is going for. Good indie flick, but most folks will be better off waiting for this one to hit streaming.

    Sergey Loznitsa's STATE FUNERAL (2021, Film Forum) is another 2019 property delayed until '21 because of COVID. A Lithuanian documentary that uses footage shot by Russian filmmakers in 1953 in the days after Joseph Stalin's death for a propaganda documentary that was never made, "State Funeral" walks a very tricky balance between re-enacting a Soviet era propaganda film and injecting not-too-subtle jabs at the idol worship it chronicles. Loznitsa makes sure to keep the shot long-enough for its crying subjects to look at the camera and get the "you got this?" approval nod. The increasingly wild claims by off-camera radio announcers about the greatness of Stalin build a steady crescendo of silliness, plus some of the repeating music cues only become bearable through well-timed repetition. Not for everybody, but those that appreciate the craftsmanship of Soviet era propaganda films will find over two hours worth of B&W/color remastered footage worth seeing.

    I can't say Haruo Sotozaki's DEMONS SLAYER THE MOVIE: MUGEN TRAIN (2021, IMAX) made me want to check out the perennial Adult Swim mainstay. It's a great sampler of the best and worst tropes of top-tier mainstream anime storytelling, though. It alternates between epic life-and-death supernatural battles and intimate moments (especially lead character Tanjiro's interaction with his family), with EVERY LINE OF DIALOGUE DOUBLING AS EXPOSITION DUMP. Great theatrical spectacle for my A-List quota.

    Last and certainly least, Rodrigo García's FOUR GOOD DAYS (2021, theater) is a curious interjection point for the careers of its two leading ladies. Mila Kunis does some of her best acting as a junkie trying to stay clean for four days to qualify for a miracle drug... but that's not saying much given her previous work. Glenn Close's acting credentials are impeccable... but she's slumming here as a middle-aged mother struggling to balance tough love and kindness. It all feels like a foul-mouthed after school TV special mugging for Oscar attention. Pass, but thanks for trying.

  3. WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020) Everyone goes on about how this is the worst movie imaginable, but I kind of liked it. It's very silly and nonsensical, but I think that's partially intentional. The tone is, "We're just having fun here."

    ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER BORIS KARLOFF (1949) Okay, this was the 1940s, so a lot these jokes aren't what anyone today would call sensitive. But there were some good bits as well. The scene where Karloff has Lou Costello hypnotized is some great macabre humor.

    DARK STAR (1974) John Carpenter's debut is just wonderfully weird. It's such a simple movie, yet it's somehow also overflowing with ideas. A lot to mull over, but I really liked it.

    DEAD AND BURIED (1981) Speaking of weird, I really enjoyed this movie's creepy small down vibe. And a couple of those Stan Winston effects must've had at least one person fainting in the theater back in '81. Just imagine if the Dark Shadows movie had been more like this.

    1. The beach ball alien in Dark Star I found humorous. As you stated, Mac, it is a simple film that is executed well.

  4. With the final week of the American tax season arriving, there was not have much energy left to watch movies. Every day has been a long day.

    Instead, I have been putting together the list of movies being considered for Junesploitation. Many of the movies from my collection are ones I have meant to watch to for several years. I am also looking at what is available on streaming right now. Several of my candidates on Amazon Prime have recently become rentals, which was disappointing. In general, I am not finding the genre and exploitation selections on Prime as deep as in past years. The Italian horror options, in particular, are limited. Tubi has more of those films available, but then one has to deal with the commercials. The vintage kung fu film on Prime do not seem as numerous, either.

    Needless to say, I am looking forward to the unveiling of the Junesploitation schedule.

    Anyway, this was my lone watch for the week.

    POSSESSED (1947) – An excellent noir melodrama starring Joan Crawford. She portrays a woman who cannot let go of the man she loves. She might also have committed a murder. The fun of the film is taking in every twist in the story. To make everything seem more noir (noirish?), the plot unfolds in classic flashback structure. Definitely worth a watch if you like these kind of films.

  5. Watched The Woman in the Window last night. Not going to spoil anything here, but it's such a bizarre movie, I almost can't believe Amy Adams signed on for it. It's a weird mix of like a 90s thriller, a faux-Charlie Kaufman movie and like a giallo, strangely? I liked it but it's probably bad. Anyone else check it out this weekend?

    1. Your comments here are the first review that's made me want to check it out. Everything else l've read are basically warnings to stay away.🤔😕

    2. It's just so bizarre, considering the talent in it. I read on Wikipedia that Tony Gilroy handled some substantial reshoots after a poor test screening, and I'm so interested to know whats reshot. I really wish I could say more but the whole thing comes out with a "who made this" energy that so reminds me of only giallo movies (not saying its a giallo movie in terms of style or structure, it's still very much a slick Hollywood affair)