Saturday, November 18, 2023

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Nia DaCosta's THE MARVELS 3D (2023, IMAX 3D) doesn't deserve to pay for all the broken plates and bad decision-making the MCU's been stuck in since "Endgame." Not top-tier Marvel, but a solid "Guardians of the Galaxy"-type goofy character team-up action/comedy whose highs (the singing planet, the 'Memories' sequence that nearly choked me from laughing too hard! :-D) compensate for its lows (Zawe Ashton's one-dimensional villain, Nick Fury playing an inconsistent-with-previous-continuity bossman). Never seen a Disney+ TV series, which hurt me watching this as much as it did "Guardians 3": lost about the finer details but still able to enjoy the cast chemistry, decent performances and passable action set-pieces. Other than Captain Marvel still being way too OP (humanizing her with two younger "sidekicks" brings the best out of Brie Larson) "The Marvels" delivers enough MCU goodness to be worth seeing... on Disney+ in a few weeks.

    TWO HOLIDAY SLASHERS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE: THANKSGIVING/IT'S A WONDERFUL KNIFE (2023, THEATER). Heather Wixson's review of Eli Roth's latest is right on the money. It craps the bed at the very end of the third act (you can FEEL the exact moment the 'Excellent' gear switches down to 'Generic'), but before that it's a gory homage/tribute to the 'B' slashers of the 80's ("Happy Birthday To Me") and 90's (the sequels to the "Scream" rip-offs). Movie/narrative/characters take predicament seriously, with Roth & company providing the goofy supporting characters and OTT gory gags to lighten up the mood. Depending on potential sequels diluting its impact, this one will be a horror classic for years to come.

    On the other hand the director of "Tragedy Girls"/co-writer of "Five Nights at Freddy's" (Tyler MacIntyre) delivers a turkey in his Christmas-themed slasher/homage to Frank Capra's classic. Justin Long is as bad here as he was good in "Barbarian" (ouch!), tone is a moving target that often scores (the empty theater attack) but also misses wildly (the gathering in the town plaza is embarrassing), and try as she might Jane Widdop's final girl can't make the "tragedy" of her folks not remembering her feel sad. "Happy Death Day 1 & 2" did it better, leaving "Knife" feeling like the poor man's Shudder original it actually is. Rewatch "When Evil Lurks" instead.

    Palm D'Or winner ANATOMY OF A FALL (2023, THEATER) is another bladder-buster good drama that's way too long for its own good. Clever use of the lead character's inability to speak French in a French court to defend herself, but since she's German (who never speaks her maternal tongue) having to rely on English adds a layer of cultural distance/tension that makes her plight more relatable/tense. It's either the character study of a desperate, unlucky wife/mother or a cold, calculating murderer. Great for post-viewing discussion, kind-of boring as it unfolds. Worth a streaming watch.

    Neil Burger's THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER (2023, THEATER) is an 'it's fine' drama/thriller that is impeccably made/shot that I don't think I'll ever rewatch again. A "twist" happens early in the plot I'd rather not reveal, but I'll just say Daisy Ridley, Brooklyn Prince (as Ridley's younger self) and Ben Mendelsohn deliver performances that at times surpass the material they have to work with. Perfect wait-until-streaming quality little flick.

    FREELANCE (2023, THEATER). The director of OG "Taken" (Pierre Morel) is on autopilot in this action/comedy that leans too much on the latter while delivering undercooked set-pieces of the former. Alison Brea and John Cena trade insults and flirt as a journalist and down-in-the-dumps ex-soldier trying to interview a third-world dictator in a typical Hollywood idea of a third-world banana republic. It feels like Juan Pablo Raba's President Venegas character steals the show because the filmmakers cram him in scenes where he doesn't belong, to great comedic effect. A well-meaning misfire.

    More reviews later. :-)

  2. howdy y'all!

    Earlier this year i started digging into Tony Scott flicks, especially ones pairing him with Denzel. Welp its time to dig back into Scotts porfolio...

    Spy Game (2001 blu)

    Loved this flick! Frankly with the charisma of both Redford and Pitt you'd have to try hard to mess things up but i think this movie has a really great storytelling concept by telling us a characters origin story throughout intertwined with current high stakes subterfuge. Outstanding spy thriller!

    The Last Boy Scout (1991 blu)

    This is a super fun, seedy, 90's actioner meets odd couple buddy comedy. Willis is channeling some strong down-on-his-luck noir detective vibes. The opening third of the flick is really impressive with its surprises and deaths, then it settles nicely into a revenge against over-the-top baddies. (LOVE Taylor Negron in this). Honestly if you tweaked this a smidge it really would be a solid addition to the Die Hard flicks (id happily swap this in and delete pt 4 and 5). A fun revisit and another reminder that theres a lot of crazy@ss fun 90s actioners out there.

    i know im stating the obvious but i think Tony Scott is BRILLIANT. Movie nerds get this but alot of folks probably dont. Im having so much fun with his filmography and dont plan on stopping.

    Shifting gears to the previously mentioned Denzel....

    Equalizer 3 (2023 Blu)

    I was late to the Equalizer movies, discovering them finally this year and having a blast. Equalizer 3 is soooooooo much fun. Its action set pieces are phenom but it does take its time with McCall and a small town in Italy to heighten it above a shoot-em-up-revenger. The setting is GORGEOUS, the flick is shot beautifully. The plot isnt super complex but gives a few twisty turns for the bad guys and does have some fun with a modern take on Godfather-lite mafia tropes.

    and..too bookend todays reviews...i know im stating the obvious but i think Denzel Washington is brilliant. Ive realllly enjoyed revisiting or first time watching several of his movies this year. Hes got this confident charmingness that just connects with whatever character he plays.

    Peace .n. Movie Love


  3. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010): yesterday they released the animated series on Netflix, which i promptly binged. It's a fine show, but i lived with the movie for so long that i had difficulty dissociating between the series and the movie. I love the movie (and Edgar Wright in general), i watch it at least once a year. The casting is perfect, the editing is flawless and it's super funny. So when the anime came out i jumped on it. But with all the original actors coming back in their roles, as good as they were in the movie, all i could think was how i wanted to rewatch the movie. So i watched it first thing this morning. I'll give it to the show, they go their own way, even straying away from the comic (i think, i have to reread it, i ordered it while watching the show). Anyway, movie's near perfect (i have quibbles with the ending), and the show is well worth the watch, so jump on the netflix train and enjoy.

  4. All of my watches this week were connected with Noirvember. I mixed things up a bit with a couple of neo-noirs. Two of the films I was somewhat familiar with. I first watched The Big Heat around twenty years ago, and The Hot Spot I saw parts of on TV back in the early 2010s.

    THE HOT SPOT (1990, dir. Dennis Hopper) – In a small Texan town, passions and criminal schemes collide. Don Johnson plays the smooth-talking drifter with ulterior motives. He is sought after by two ladies, a very young Jennifer Connelly and a very sexy Virginia Madsen. Also in the cast is William Sadler in a memorably nasty role. The Hot Spot takes film noir and ups the sleaze factor considerably, but the tone of the film remains relaxed. There is quite a bit of flesh on display, male and female. As neo-noirs go, this is a fun watch.

    DECOY (1946) – Truly unique in the world of film noir. It has the common story of finding out where someone hid stolen money, but the plot mechanics to get there are extremely bizarre. I have no desire to spoil the surprise. The femme fatale at the center of it all is wonderfully vicious, too, rivalling any of the more famous ones of the period. It is a fun B-movie noir.

    FARGO (1996, dir. Ethan Coen) – A title that I have intended to watch for many years. Reading the IMDB reviews for this, or any other Coen Brothers film, is always interesting. The balance of praise and criticism is surprisingly even. Their stylized cinematic world is one that I enjoy entering, so Fargo turned out to be a very satisfying watch. They always have a playful take on film noir tropes, and the Minnesota settings are certainly odd for this type of film. The black comedy is also unusual, but I really responded to that. I laughed more than I expected. Though the cast is terrific, William H. Macy’s performance was the high point for me. His character is so ineffectual in everything he does that he becomes completely pathetic by the end. A harsh end it is, too.

    THE BIG HEAT (1953, dir. Fritz Lang) on Mubi – One of the most famous films noirs, in some ways such a typical example that should not stand out as much as it does. That all comes down to the performances, particularly from Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin. It is a story of corruption with a high level of violence for the time period. The vigilante cop aspect had me thinking about Dirty Harry quite a bit. With the overall quality of the film, The Big Heat is a good place to start with film noir. The lower budget B-movies noirs can be a little harder appreciate at first.

  5. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) You could make an argument that aspects of this movie are problematic, but this is also the movie that gave us Little Nellie and the volcano lair finale, so it's all good.

    SLITHER (2006) Best use of the Predator theme music outside of Predator.

    MARS ATTACKS (1996) Ack-ack, etc.

    ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) Roger Corman goodness!

    And now for F This Anime: BLUE SAMURAI is brilliant and an absolute must-see, SCOTT PILGRIM TAKES OFF is big fun but definitely for the fans only, but I was bored with PLUTO and bailed after two episodes.

    1. It has been a long time since I was You Only Live Twice. I remember Sean Connery's performance being a little more lethargic than the previous films. He did admit to being bored of the role by that time. Yes, the villain's lair is a great set-piece. The theme song is one of the top Bond songs, too.

    2. I miss the good old 'lair in a volcano' type of Bond movies