Saturday, March 12, 2022

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Wow, that was an intense F This Movie 2022 Twitter Film Festival last week! I haven't seen so many tweets since the Trump Administration! :-P Although "The Rock" ended up being my favorite movie of the festival, Roland Emmerich's INDEPENDENCE DAY (1994, 4K UHD Blu-ray) really took me back 26 years to when I had just moved into New York City for my first job and was living in a rent-controlled apartment in Central Park West. My apartment couldn't use an air conditioner (fuses would blow) and '96 was a hot summer, so I'd go to see "ID4" over and over as an excuse to get out of the heat and into a cool theater. It still holds the record as the flick I've seen projected in theaters more than any other (I lost count after 40, including repertory screenings over the past 4 decades).

    After last Saturday I ended up rewatching "ID4" two more times with vintage Friends In Your Head and Film Sack commentary tracks. Fun times! :-D Then I pushed my luck and rewatched Emmerich's INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE 3D (2016, 3D Blu-ray). I never made the mistake of assuming the sequel would be anywhere near as good as original, so I genuinely enjoyed it the couple of times I've seen it. This rewatch, though... yikes, it's really hard to watch with OG "ID4" fresh in the brain. It's nice to have Judd Hirsh and Jeff Goldblum back, but most of the returning characters/actors (especially Vivica A. Fox... WTF?!?!) are wasted and the new young leads are generic vanilla young Hollywood types without much personality. Turns out (a) Dean Devlin's contributions (and Harald Kloser, you're no Dean Devlin! :-D) and (b) Emmerich being forced by limitations of movie tech in '96 to spend time with the characters are primary reasons why "ID4" can still play in '22 while "Resurgence"... was never made (though it looks great in 3D, because we all know 3D rulz!).

    Matt Reeves' THE BATMAN (2022, IMAX) justifies its almost three-hour running time by turning most of its laser-focused attention to two things most previous Batman movies haven't: Batman/Bruce Wayne himself (and his close relationships to Alfred, Gordon and eventually Selena Kyle), and the case he's working at. Though it takes detours into action, racing (including an homage to the car crash in Reeves' "Let Me In"), fighting and superhero set-pieces, this is a "Law & Order" episode on Hollywood steroids through and through. So nice to spend way more time with James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) than the bad guys, who leave a mark but aren't the main focus of the piece. Robert Pattinson fares better wearing the cowl (Reeves frames Batman close-ups so you can see his eyes, and Pattinson's acting the shit out of them) than as Bruce Wayne, who feels like an emo version of Edward Cullen. Zoë Kravitz and Andy Serkis are kind-of 'meh', but overall this is a much better place for Batman movies to be than where Zack Snyder left them off. Highly recommended even though "The Batman" isn't as rewatchable as some of its sillier predecessors.

    Though it's well meaning and has a couple of good moments, DOG (2022, theater) is a mess. Co-directed by Channing Tatum and co-writer Reid Carolin (and it shows), it's a road movie that hits every trope you'd expect from the "Turner & Hooch" school of mismatched human and dog partners. It might be set in the military and have a sad backdrop (the funeral of a fallen comrade as its final destination), but "Dog" often dips into comedic set-pieces (most of them pounding the shit out of West Coast stereotypes: Portland weirdos, San Francisco hippies, etc.) that aren't funny or quirky. Tatum hanging out with a schizo dog seemed like fun, but "Dog" kept pushing me away. :-(

    1. 1996! "ID4" came out in '96! Oh, too early! :'(


    Went into Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's DRIVE MY CAR (2021, theater; streaming on HBO Max) a skeptic, but the slow build-up to a satisfying payoff won me over. Things that at first feel Oscar bait gimmicky (opening credits at the end of the first act/prologue, using Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" dialogue as a Greek Choir of the character's inner feelings, etc.) pay off huge dramatic dividends by the end, when you are in synch with the particular vibes of the lead characters' psyche. Hidetoshi Nishijima's mostly expressionless face eventually cracks, and Tôko Miura's tomboyish driver makes understatement a virtue. And my God, what a beautiful picture! Despite not being a travelogue-type narrative, Hidetoshi Shinomiya's cinematography makes Tokyo and Hiroshima look like inviting as hell. Like "The Batman," the final result justifies "Drive My Car's" three-hour running time. Yes, it feels like an acting/repressed-emotion exercise, but a really good one. Highly recommended.

    Joachim Trier's THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (2022, theater) is fine, but it feels like it's trying too hard to make its Norwegian protagonist (Renate Reinsve's Julie) an "Amelie"-type universal archetype for the late 20's/early 30's crowd. It has a standout sequence where the world freezes while Julie sorts out her relationships (it's in all the trailers and commercials), but outside of that it's a remarkably unremarkable coming of age story of a smart and likable young woman figuring out what she wants out of life. Anders Danielsen Lie almost steals the movie as Julie's too-understanding hubby, but ultimately "TWPITW" is worth seeing because Renate Reinsve's uncertainty comes into focus when the epilogue reveals her true character. Recommended with reservations.

    Last and certainly least (though it's still worth seeing as a curio), GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI (2022, theater) is an epic Bollywood tale about prostitution from the 1940's through the 1960's. Very loosely based on real-life madam Gangubai Kothewali, the juxtaposition of Bollywood spectacle with chaste depictions of prostitution (way more beatings than anything remotely close to a kiss, let alone nudity) is fascinating. Alia Bhatt is way too young as the titular character, but the camera loves her and she holds her own. Ajay Devgn steals the movie as the Godfather-type benevolent protector of Gangubai. Again, come for the tonal shifts between melodramatic heartbreak and uplifting platitude, then stay for the spirited dance numbers and endless parade of gorgeous women. Worth a streaming viewing, eventually.

  3. Howdy F This Friends! Have a groooovy weekend.

    The Batman (2022 Cinemark XD).

    Its gotten alot of views, press, and attention this week. Deservedly so. The Batman is an incredibly well shot, directed, acted, casted movie. And as it features like the 7th (??) actor to portray the Bat on the bigscreen its amazing that it brought something new-ish to the table.

    However it is dark, dour, sad, depressing, somber, slowish, and almost not a batman movie. You know how The Joker has more or less nothing to do with comic book movies but manages to turn a story of depression and mental illness into an origin story? Well this movie is, and im like the 200th person to say so, a dark gritty film noir detective story about a loner detective chasing a serial killer in a crime ridden city. It absolutely has shades of se7en and chinatown and a pinch of Christine for good measure. This isnt a dig on the movie...far from it..its just a different approach. And, of course, Batman IS a detective. And, of course, those of us who were raised on the classic graphic novels of the 70s and 80s know that there is tons of great story to be found digging into crime families like Maroni and Falcone. the end i really really really like what they did this outing but i dont think ill revisit it much as its tone is just sooo dour. There are a few standout moments for me..the introduction of the batmobile is epic..its literally introduced like an angry growling lurching animal. Also i found the final 25m to be great as we got a little more classic batman vs villain action. Most of all i love the casting of Pattinson and Kraviz..she's particularly a standout. So tonally a bit too dark but frankly im excited for more from this Bats outing.

    Final note: during the end credits i asked myself "wait...Collin Farrell was in this??". Wow. Hands down one of the best make up jobs EVER. Also a strong performance.

    1. Yep, the final 25 minutes of "The Batman" feel like they switched reels on us (I know, I know... no film reels anymore! :'() and we got scenes from "No Time To Die" and "The Dark Knight Returns." No matter, the movie earned the right to switch tones and go a little mainstream after more than two hours of gritty, dark-as-fuck noir detective tropes. Shame it doesn't go full "Se7en" (it could have), but that's big studio for you. I like that Matt Reeves went back to his inside-the-car trickery from "Let Me In" for the car chase, which is short but feels epic. Great flick overall, but I'll rewatch the cheese ("Forever," "Batman & Robin") a lot more than go back to this tasty cinematic caviar. :-(

  4. Love all the thoughts as well as your reviews JM! You have a wonderful grasp of cinema and a great ability to write about it. Cheers mate!

  5. Hello friends! Hope everyone's enjoying a fantastic weekend.

    So yesterday I saw Carl Th. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) for the first time. In a festival screening. In a church. With live music played on the church organ. It was a great experience, the movie's beautiful and the lead actress is amazing, and the setting added to the effect. Apparently they do these church screenings every year, I'll have to be alert next year so it doesn't pass me by.

    Other than that, I continued my ongoing quest to see movies from as many countries as possible, and this week added Dominican Republic, Chad, Botswana and Cameroon to my list, which is now 105 countries long. The highlight of the movies was Freedom in the Dark, a small documentary (by a Finnish director) about Botswana's burgeoning heavy metal culture. Not that the filmmaking was anything special, but the guys shown performing and being interviewed had this purity of spirit to them that really hit me.

    And today I watched The Day of the Dolphin with a friend. We were a little baffled by the movie's tone, the juxtaposition between the silly premise and the straight-faced execution kept us on the edge of our seats the whole running time (though I'm not sure if that was intentional or not). George C. Scott is great in everything!

  6. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992). Just relentlessly dark and nightmarish, and yet required viewing as part of the Twin Peaks experience.

    DEATH ON THE NILE (2022). A perfectly watchable old-fashioned whodunit. They've really pushed things to give Poirot some emotional stakes in the story, and to make some bigger point about the nature of love, but mostly it's likable actors being glamorous while committing murder.

    THROW MOMMMA FROM THE TRAIN (1987). "You don't have a cousin Patty!"

    THE BATMAN (2022). I'm kind of in the middle of everyone's opinions. I liked the cast, the Batmobile chase, and the overall vibe. But it was indeed way too long, and the sequel set-up stuff didn't make me pumped for the next one. Instead it broke immersion took me out of the movie.

    THE SHADOW (1994). A nonsensical and overly cheesy movie, but I'm okay with that.

    THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1993). Not as huge or epic as I remembered, but still a lot of lighthearted swashbuckling fun.

    TURNING RED (2022). Really lively and enjoyable, though the adolescent girls were so hyper I was feeling tired after a while. And Pixar again brings the wow factor in the visuals. A big crowd scene in the third act must have been incredibly difficult to animate, and they pulled it off in a big way.

    1. Holy crap! 😳 Saw "Throw Momma..." and "Three Musketeers '93" with Mac on the Jury Room 4.0 Discord Group Watch, and l completely forgot l saw both come review writing time. Other than the 4K transfer of "Three Musketeers" on Disney+ looking stunning (Dean Sempel for the win! 😎👍) both flicks left my brain as soon as l finished watching them. 😑😮‍💨

  7. I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. The last two weeks have not been the busiest of movie periods, and my work did not give me a chance to participate in the festival last weekend. I got around to a few things.

    BITCHIN’: THE SOUND AND FURY OF RICK JAMES (2021) on Amazon Prime – The life of Rick James gets the rock doc treatment with plenty of talking heads. Friends, family, and the musicians he worked with get a chance to tell their stories about a man of talent and ambition who lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle too heavily. The early sections about James’ upbringing and early life were the most interesting to me, though.

    DEEP CRIMSON (1996, dir. Arturo Ripstein) – This Mexican remake of the true crime classic The Honeymoon Killers does many things differently. The original is the better cinematic experience (even with its serious sound issues), but Deep Crimson manages to be a darkly entertaining film. The black-and-white starkness of the original is replaced by colorful cinematography, a melodramatic tone, and plenty of black humor. The lead actors do a good job at selling the shifting tones of the story.

    GOING ATTRACTIONS: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF THE MOVIE PALACE (2019) – A general history of going to the movies in the United States with a focus on the ostentatious theaters built in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of the theaters are a little too gaudy for my taste, but the fact that they were created in the first place is fascinating. It was appropriate that the future of film exhibition is discussed at the conclusion. In so many ways the culture is cinema is fragile, from the materials that the movies exist on to the places where people have gone to see them.

    THE BLACK CAT (1934, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer) – I just received the first volume of Scream Factory’s Univeral Horror boxsets. My aunt, who enjoys older horror films, is visiting, so I decided to show her The Black Cat. She really enjoyed it. I was again struck by the weirdness of the whole production. Karloff and Lugosi play off each other beautifully, and there is a great sinister atmosphere to house.

  8. Besides the Univeral Horror set, I picked up a bunch of discs recently, many of which are very suitable for Junesploitation. I already have a list of films I would like to watch for the month. According to my Junesploitation spreadsheet, I have seen almost 200 films (only a tiny fraction are re-watches) since 2017.

    Here are a couple of ideas for topics this June:

    Christopher Lee! (2022 is the centennial of his birth)

    1. The Christopher Lee shout is a good call. A worthy topic and plenty of different stuff to choose from.

      To add my own two cents, maybe we don't need a war movie day in Junesploitation? Just doesn't feel right with the way things are going. But that's just me.

    2. There will definitely not be a "war" day this year.