Chloé Zhao's MARVEL ETERNALS (2021, AMC Dolby Cinema) has so much going for it (including the ability to both poke fun at DC's recent lackluster "Superman" movies and deliver a "Justice League"-type narrative eons better than Zack Snyder ever could) that it hurts to say it's the closest MCU has come to making a mediocre original film reeking of a cash grab. For every positive (on-location shooting, Don Lee in a star-making performance that tops even his memorable "Train to Busan" role, positive portrayals of interracial, gay AND mute/deaf superheroes, etc.) there's an equally-strong negative attached (shallow-to-unlikable characters we're supposed to care about because they're Marvel folks, a plot meant to appeal to "Ancient Aliens" TV viewers, a punishing-for-what-it-delivers running time, etc.). I'm taking my 11-year old niece to see it in 3D (because 3D rules!) so I get a crack at a second viewing, but initial impressions are very mixed. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for more-serious-while-still-jokey "Guardians of the Galaxy 2.0." It's possible to be both a fan of Denis Villeneuve and agree with everything Rob DiCristino gushes about in his review of DUNE: PART ONE (2021, IMAX) and ultimately not like the end results. Denis and his AAA-caliber collaborators (including Hans Zimmer hitting hard on the 'digital noise as wall of music' button in his soundtrack machinery) were so busy engaging in the difficult task of translating Frank Herbert's dense written mythology into something palatable to 'PG-13' studio audiences that they forgot basics like keeping your epic storytelling entertaining. "Dune" is homework from start to finish (both the novel and this unfinished adaptation of it), and the sporadic morsels of tasty treats it drops (Oscar Isaac/Jason Momoa/Josh Brolin crushing it hard, the insect wing-like movement of the flying machines, Charlotte Rampling as the Bene Gesserit's Queen Bee, etc.) are not worth putting up with the negatives (Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson personifying blandness, jettisoning the worlds/personalities of the Harkonnen and Emperor to concentrate on the Atreides clan, destroying any narrative surprises with Paul's visions for the sake of building his reputation as 'the one,' etc.). Even giving it the benefit of a second chapter (or third, fifth, tenth... the novel is that deep and dense!) making things flow better, "Dune: Part One" posits questions and introduces characters I'm in no hurry to revisit or care for in the slightest. Who knew a Denis Villeneuve mainstream epic would make me appreciate the personality and fun quirks of the equally-bad-but-more-entertaining David Lynch adaptation. :-OSpeaking of Timothée Chalamet, Wes Anderson's THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021, theater) manages to make Anderson's mastery of the X/Y axes camera movement (98% in 1:66:1 AR, 2% in blink-and-you-won't-notice 2:35:1 AR) both endearing and maddening. You've seen this movie and these characters before, but the quirky Anderson mise-en-scène has been dialed up to 11. I consider myself a fan of most French cinema, but the degree of apparent (pretend?) Francophilia on display here seems to be both the point of the exercise and the main joke running through its multiple vignettes. As usual Bill Murray coasts, Adrien Brody overacts (to great effect), Benicio Del Toro barely emotes (to great effect), Jeffrey Wright AND Léa Seydoux flex the comedic muscles that were dormant in "No Time To Die," Frances McDormand effortlessly steals the show and Timothée Chalamet embodies the carefree side of the late 60's French student movement. Prettiest color/B&W film I've seen in ages, but at the service of more of the same Anderson tropes you've already seen dozens of times.
Speaking of Felix Leiter and Madeleine (see post above), Cary Joji Fukunaga's NO TIME TO DIE (2021, IMAX) took so long to come out Rami Malek stopped being a major star by the time it released. Shame, but that only makes his Lyutsifer Safin an easy escape goat for the film's handful of tone-balancing problems. In an earned farewell to James Bond worthy of the man who portrayed him since 2006 (one that managed to turn "Spectre" from utter shit to mildly entertaining), Daniel Craig gets a chance to explore shades and depths of 007 previous actors stayed far away from (except Timothy Dalton had he been given more than two films). The opening minutes are the most terrifying home invasion mini-film I've ever seen, Ana de Armas looks great kicking ass wearing high heels (you know Jeff Bezos wants an Amazon Prime TV series based on Paloma ASAP), the EON production people will be lucky to break even (but every production dollar is up there on the IMAX screen) and, in the end, all you can do is have a toast to a departed cinematic comrade and go back to work. Second best Craig Bond (after "Skyfall") and a hell of a tall order for whoever the new guy is. What's Martin Campbell's schedule looking like these days? After "The Protege" I'm sure the man is looking for a comeback hit. :-P Like 007, a handful of October movies slipped through the cracks of Scary Movie Month.MASS (2021, theater) is an impressive and assured directorial/screenwriting debut for actor Fran Kranz (Martin in "The Cabin in the Woods"). The less you know going in the better, but it's an acting showcase in which Jason Isaacs channels all the emotion he never gets a chance to show in "Star Trek: Discovery." Worth seeking out.Ridley Scott's THE LAST DUEL (2021, theater) introduces a medieval cinematic bromance between Adam Driver and Ben Affleck that makes Matt Damon's butt-hurt crusader knight the third wheel. First 30-45 minutes are uneven and rough as hell, but when you realize the "Rashomon"-like approach the filmmakers are using to tell this timely inspired-by-real-events tale (easily the most rapey mainstream movie released by a major studio in ages) the last two acts click. Jodie Comer is better in "Free Guy" than here, but that only proves her range. Worth seeing while still in theaters for the big screen epic feel.Edgar Wright's LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021, AMC Dolby Cinema), like James Wan's "Malignant," has giallo in the brain but goes about telling its tragic tale of 60's moral depravity against working women in a most entertaining and thought-provoking way. There are so many mirrors (both physical, CG and/or metaphorical ones) on display here you expect Keifer Sutherland to break out of a glass wall shouting obscenities. Thomasin McKenzie ("Jojo Rabbit") and Anya Taylor-Joy (Netflix's "The Queen's Gambit") make an unlikely one-two punch of every duality (victim/victimizer, witness/perpetrator, truth seeker/truth deflector, etc.) that Italian horror movies and James Wan play for laughs, but which Edgar Wright directs like an orchestra of visual, aural and thematic storytelling prowess. Apparently "Baby Driver" (horrible movie) was a fluke, because this seasoned and veteran filmmaker makes his Cornetto Trilogy and "Scott Pilgrim" look like appetizers for this sumptuous cinematic meal. Highly recommended, especially in a double bill with "Malignant."Andy Serkis' VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE (2021, AMC Dolby Cinema) pivots hard toward the Spider-Man fanboys at the expense of average moviegoers who didn't see the prequel. I'm neither, but was won over by the devil-may-care attitude and Tom Hardy embracing what every actors wants: a guaranteed huge paycheck playing a quirky character ripe with opportunities to act crazy. 'It's OK,' but will be quickly forgotten by most.
Thanks JM! I always appreciate your comments, reviews, and musings. I also ponder the fact that you clearly dont sleep given the amount of movies you watch! As lukes dad once said...."Impressive...most impressive"
Most of these l saw during the month (except "Eternals," obviously), but had to wait for 7-word review jail sentence to end before writing about 'em. 😛🙂
I loved The Last Duel. Probably top movie this year. R. Scott knows how to direct. He's so good.
I looked at many films this week. Most were partial watches to get a sense of where my interest currently lies after a month of horror films. VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970, dir. Jaromil Jires) – Since I missed a film earlier Tuesday evening on TCM that I wanted to see, I settled for a re-watch of this Czech classic. VALERIE is a beguiling movie with its barrage of strange imagery and the radiant adolescent lead. Jaroslava Schallerova was the perfect choice for Valerie, a vessel of innocence looking at the coming of adulthood and its perils. That same night I watched most of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s feature debut, Love Is Colder Than Death. Clearly inspired by Jean-Pierre Melville and the French New Wave, the film feels like a stylistic exercise more than a narrative. Another issue is scenes going on for too long. GARRINCHA: JOY OF THE PEOPLE (1963, dir. Joaquim Pedro de Andrade) – I picked up the complete films de Andrade from Kino Lorber last year. MACUNAIMA is his most famous film and the one that inspired me to get the set, but I chose to begin with a documentary. It is about a famous Brazilian soccer player from the period when Brazil was just becoming a world soccer power. Besides the on the field aspects of sport, there is a prominent element of seeking the meaning of it to individuals and society.THE HANDMAIDEN (2016, dir. Park Chan-wook) – The one major watch from October that did not fit neatly into any horror category is this sumptuous South Korean period thriller based on a British novel. This is a beautifully staged tale of a con that takes some unexpected twists. The sexual element is prominent, including explicit Japanese prints that are definitely not suitable for children. Though I found the film cold in certain moments, I enjoyed it overall, particularly the depiction of Korea under Japanese colonial rule.
The Handmaiden is fantastic. I've been singing it's praises, but no friends have watched it. I believe it was Patricks #1 that year. Well deserved.
Though I am not the biggest slasher fan, I decided to add to my horror collection by picking up a couple of them at my local FYE. The Scream Factory blu-ray of My Bloody Valentine is one I have wanted to get for a while. I would rate it as my favorite slasher. (Love those Canadian accents). A J. Lee Thompson film I have not seen, Happy Birthday To Me was just the right price. I also acquired some titles from the recent Kino Lorber (Italian genres, Pete Walker, and Jess Franco) and Mondo Macabro (Spanish horror, Shinya Tsukimoto) sales. With so many sales coming in a few weeks, I am struggling to figure out how to allocate what is left of my disc budget. The second volume of Vinegar Syndrome’s Forgotten Gialli (Rosalba Neri and Barbara Bouchet!) really interests me, but I have so much from that company already. With re-watches, I could program much of Junesploitation with my VS titles. The new Camille Keaton set should be right up my alley but will not be discounted much. The first Paul Naschy set from Scream Factory is tempting, especially since I already have the second set. Though the Severin folk horror box looks interesting, the price on that is just too much right now. I saw somewhere that Severin is putting together a box set of the Laura Gemser Black Emanuelle films. As a fan of Italian exploitation, I definitely would be getting that one. Has anyone made any noteworthy acquisitions or plans to for the holidays?
The best film I saw this week was The Late Shift, the 1996 HBO movie about The Tonight Show and David Letterman and Jay Leno competing in who replaces Johnny Carson as the host. John Michael Higgins and Daniel Roebuck as the leads are both great.I also really enjoyed Eternals, but I'm a Marvel fanboy so that was bound to happen.I devoted the whole of October to just horror, so there's some catching up to do. Thankfully, The Last Duel and The French Dispatch are still playing in theaters, I'm planning to make it a double feature tomorrow (which looks like is the last screening of The Last Duel in my city).Biggest movie news for me this week was that Titane is coming to the big screen here in Finland. There's been no indication it's getting a theatrical release, but the Night Visions film festival are showing it in December. But they haven't released the complete schedule yet, I just hope there's something else worth seeing on the same day to justify a trip to Helsinki.
I realized the The Last Duel wasn't going to play anymore, so I went to the last day. Well worth it.
The Sparks Brothers (2021: Netflix)............."Remember weird mustache keyboardist from MTV 80s?"Oh wait...7 word reviews are over..i can pontificate further! As a fan of Edgar Wright* but not particularly of the band, ive been stoked to check it out once streaming. Its breezy but a lot of fun. A great blend of 'talking heads' fan service with live footage over their long career. Also Edgar mixes in creative and punny visuals. Its not perfect..theres little to no depth delved into for either of the brothers lives however thats not a huge knock as the music is forefront. The band is clearly a huge influence for many and one who never appears to have tried to conform (aka "sell out") to something outside of what they want to play. If you like music documentaries (which i love) then i suggest checking it out.*Note: JM...we diverge on the subject of Baby Driver...i love love love that movie. i think i put it 3rd behind Shaun and Pilgrim in my Wright movie listing.
I know l'm on an island, but "Baby Driver" really struck me as Wright's attempt to have style as a substitute for some shallow, unlikable characters (including Baby and his girl) doing nasty things (and that was before Kevin Spacey was outed as an off-camera perv). It reminds me more of mid-90's Tarantino-inspired knock-offs than Edgar's work, IMO. 🤓🤯
Yo JM! I totally get and appreciate your thoughts on Baby Driver! Actually its one of the things i realllly like about Edgar as a director: many folks are huge fans of his work but often differ on which flicks they connect with the most. Thanks for your thoughts and for your ongoing great talkback reviews and comments! Its stuff like this that makes me love F This all the more.
I'm also on that island with you. Baby Driver felt forced. And the Spacey thing. Looking forward to his new movie though!
Island for two, coming up. 🥲🤗
FYI on the Pig blu-ray there is 40 minutes of Nic Cage learning to cook the dishes used in the movie and it is delightful. Worth the price of admission.
That absolutely sounds like it's worth picking up the blu-ray for. Of course I planned on doing that at some point anyway, but you've helped seal the deal.
I extended my Scary Movie Month by a few days to watch the Hatchet movies. I'd seen the first one maybe 10 years ago and remembered very little. And yeah, they're pretty fun. I'm excited to relisten to the podcast and actually know what they're talking about. Usually, November is reserved for Bond movies. But, after looking at what's on HBO Max and Prime, I've decided to make it Noir-vember this year. First up was Night Moves. This is right in the middle of Hackman's unbelievable 70s run. I'll always remember Hackman for his 90s roles, but man could he pick his roles. The rest of the movie is good too.Next up was Body Heat. Sexy thrillers typically aren't my bag, but something about Kasdan's direction and William Hurt's mustache really kept me engaged. The script is a tad contrived, but overall the film does a wonderful job of maintaining suspense and mystery. Upcoming on tonight's agenda is a first time watch of De Palma's The Black Dahlia.
I am planning on watching some film noir this month as well. I have several titles sitting on the DVR, including Night Moves, that I have waited to get to. For older noirs, if you have not seen them already, CRISSCROSS and PITFALL are definitely worth a watch.
Thanks! Def haven't seen either so I'll add them to my list.
Just got back from watching Eternals. It is absolutely a mess on a narrative level.But... I will give it credit for at least being an ambitious "failure". Unlike the Thor: Dark Worlds of the MCU, it at least wasn't a slog to watch through and there were a number of good performances I could latch onto.
Years ago I was in the habit of watching programs that aired old horror or sci-fi films late on Saturday nights. Around a decade ago it was Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In and the local Pittsburgh program The It's Alive Show. Svengoolie is the only show that I have access to now, but I find it on too early in the evening to give me that appropriate late-nite feeling. Any, I recreated that experience with a watch on Prime. THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) – There is a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo in this story about an inadvertently created element with a strong magnetic field. Somehow it threatens Earth's existence. As with many low-budget 1950s sci-fi flicks, there is a lot of talking and some stock footage. The finale is quite entertaining, and the inclusion of footage of an early computer (the kind that filled a whole room and used punch cards) gives the film some historic value. Richard Carlson, the star of many Universal films in this era, is the lead.
"Anyway, I recreated.."
So, took my sister and niece to see MARVEL'S ETERNALS 3D (2021, theater) and they loved it despite (a) my sis freaking out at my 11-year old niece seeing the love-making scene between Sersi and Ikaris (really??!!) and (b) neither being able to recall a single name for any character, not even Kit Harington's (whom they both referred to as 'Jon Snow'). For my second viewing I'm closer to Ross' opinion (see his review two posts above this): messy but entertaining throughout, and not feeling at all like a two-and-a-half-hour slog... until you gotta go to the bathroom real bad! :-P Richard Madden's performance grew on me this time around, through Don Lee's Gilgamesh and Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos are my personal standouts. Lots to like, but I stand that at least half of these "heroes" are unappealing (Barry Keoghan's Druig, Angelina Jolie's Thena, etc.) and the lack of an actual bad guy (even sentient Kro and Arishem's ulterior motives aren't outright villainous) hurts its chances to impress an MCU-trained audience. Thank God for Harish Patel's comic relief as Karun, or "Eternals" would be too ponderous and unbearable. Shame this is shaping up to be Marvel's "John Carter," but someone had to. :-(Since it was Saturday night and the kid was allowed to stay up past her bedtime, sister and her hubby (who doesn't watch or care much for movies) sat down to watch the 4K UHD of John Krasinski's A QUIET PLACE (2018) as a family unit. Brother-in-law fell asleep a few times, but from the "birth" moment he was wide awake. Niece loved it, wanted to see sequel right away... and she would have (had the UHD ready to go) had she not thrown a tantrum that got her in timeout and straight to bed. Oh well, my sister loved it mostly because it's set in parts of Upstate NY we've lived around (she used to regularly jug on the same bridge where little Beau... well... "Rocket"). :'(Checked my files for some October horror movies I did quick 7-word reviews that deserved a few more thoughts:Carlo Mirabella-Davis' SWALLOW (2020, Showtime) needs to be discovered by audiences that missed its launch near the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Seldom has a movie less adherent to horror rules (it's basically a tag-along as Haley Bennett succumbs to mental illness) been so terrifying, particularly when it takes a drastic but earned third-act detour into social commentary. Must-see stuff despite being a low-budget indie.ANTLERS (2021, theater) is very good at what it does, but the subject matter (children being hurt by adults), execution (nice mix of CG and puppetry) and setting (a down-and-dirty Pacific Northwest town straight out of "Twin Peaks") all combine to make it difficult to just look at the screen. It's clearly how the filmmakers wanted it to be (no studio ever sets to make such an off-putting product), so congrats? :-(The Synapse 4K UHD Blu-rays of Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) and DEMONS 2 (1986) are a revelation, especially coming from the Anchor Bay DVD's (which have special features not included in the Synapse versions... bonus!). 80's was a high point of Italian pop culture, fashion and horror, and all three (with a healthy mix of American rock music and German exterior locations) perfectly converge in what is essentially zombie movies set in comforting locations (a movie palace and an apartment complex). "Demons" is better than "Demons 2," but Bobby Rhodes kicks equal amounts of ass in both. Pricey but worthy 4K upgrade.THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON (1973, YouTube) is absurd, dated and the type of forgettable horror product that lives on because (a) Dean Stockwell gives it his all and (b) the ending, especially the credits, are the stuff horror dreams are made of. Worth a peek for those that take chances. See you next week. :-P
Phastos and Gilgamesh were certainly my favorites also. I didn't like Druig for most of the movie but then he seemed to get better in the last 1/3 of the movie or so. Actually thinking about it right now it's really whenever he's on screen with Makkari he's instantly more likable. Outside of those moments Keoghan's performance feels a lot more wooden. I also liked Lia McHugh's performance quite a bit given that she's a young actress playing one of the more challenging roles in the movie although I think she falters a bit near the end. Sersi as sort of the main focal point doesn't quite work because she's very vanilla in her movie incarnation.
I just watched Beware the Slenderman because Erika mentioned it on Twitter, and now I feel empty inside. What an utterly baffling, depressing, horrifying thing to happen. It's not something I'd call a fun watch, but a fascinating look at the times we live in. I think I need to watch Major League or something to lift my mood after that.