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Contentious C

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  1. Monday.  Movies.  You don't care.  It's Day 307 (and counting) of...this...whatever this is...you don't care anyway.  Let's call this one, Actresses Who Look Eerily Like Women I Dated Edition.

    Hot Garbage

    Kalifornia && - Counting this as a rewatch since I can't adequately recall if I'd seen it before.  It's possible I had, but that means somehow I forgot the most overdone, idiotic Brad Pitt role in the history of Brad Pitt & idiocy.  I have seen far too many of Dominic Sena's movies, and good God, they are all bad.  The scary thing is, this might be the best one of the bunch, as at least Juliette Lewis & Michelle Forbes are varying degrees of believable, if nothing else.  And there's probably an interesting premise for a movie here, but the execution for this is too far off the mark to give a shit.  Oh, and Tedious Narration, and when it's David fucking Duchovny's voice, it's only rendered more tedious.  But hey, Michelle Forbes, right?  There's actress # 1.

    The Deep Blue Sea - I have to think this was better as a play.  It just doesn't work at all as a film.  And I don't know how you have Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston as your stars and have basically ZERO chemistry on-screen.  They must have fucking hated each other or something.  Some of the reviews online suggest the idea that she is an unreliable narrator, but I don't think that explains or defends the shoddy work here.  So much of the movie just feels unearned; there are so many slow moments that are painfully dragged out over and over, but they're occasionally broken up by these overblown rows that don't seem like they have any basis in the same reality as these people who languidly talk about their problems like they happen to someone else.  The most preposterous one of these happens in an art gallery, and it's punctuated with a meme-worthy, "Where are you going?" "TO THE IMPRESSIONISTS!" If I get up to take a shit from now on, there's a part of me that wants to shout that each and every time.  And then the ending...ugh.  It's the most unearned thing about the whole movie.  Just no.  No.

    The Wolf of Snow Hollow - This is easily the most likable of these three films, even though it's still kind of obvious and derivative and lame in a lot of really basic ways that it didn't have to be.  The script is all right, and the development isn't *bad*, it's just, well, it's not enough.  It isn't consistently funny enough, and the ending is just some wannabe Silence of the Lambs nonsense that feels slapped on, rather than something really integrated into the rest of the film.  And there's just enough here with respect to the main character's mental breakdown that you could much more clearly connect the two tracks of events in a way that gives some more worthwhile amount of emotional impact.  But, of course, the guy who stars in it wrote and directed, too, and you wonder if this wouldn't have been a bit better - even good - if he'd found someone else to trust with the direction and storyboarding.  But, if you absolutely had to watch a movie I have deemed Hot Garbage, you could do a lot worse than this.

    The Dead - This bored the crap out of me, except for the hard left turn it takes towards the end, when Angelica Huston finally gets to do something in the movie.  Before that, it's sort of a Granada-quality, not-terribly-interesting period puff piece, which is a weird way for John Huston to have gone out, I suppose.  And while the last 20 minutes really give you something to think about, it's just not enough to buoy something that isn't necessarily compelling or likable without the twist.  I get the level of detail and care that goes into movies like this, but that isn't near enough to make me care about them.  And that's where this falls especially flat. 


    The Parallax View - This was decent, although I didn't think much of either Klute or All the President's Men when I was watching this; just never made the connection in my mind that Pakula directed all three.  No, instead, I immediately jumped to having seen The Anderson Tapes some months ago, as this had the same kind of itchy, discomfiting dread to it throughout.  I think compared to something more modern, it doesn't hold up particularly well, just because it's uncomplicated to the point of feeling like details are missing.  Aren't these guys trimming both sides of the lawn a little too hard, for example?  And the degree to which it tries to be an action movie seems a bit off, too.  But man, that ending is something else.

    Words on Bathroom Walls - This probably could have ended up in Hot Garbage, but it's got a couple of legitimately screwed-up scenes to it that drag it to watchability at times, so good on Charlie Plummer for managing to salvage this.  It's got to be one of Molly Parker's worst performances, though, and Walton Goggins seems like he's wasted for a huge chunk of the film before his big swerve finally pays off.  The only thing that consistently works is the slow burn between the two main characters, who don't seem like they'd be much of a fit, because Charlie Plummer is a weird-looking kid, but somehow they make it work.  Though, this was also more than a little weird to watch, since Taylor Russell also resembles someone I used to know just a little too much (actress # 2). 

    Playground - Whew, this was intense.  After I crapped all over Paranoid Park a while ago and the Dardenne Brothers got mentioned, this stood out a bit for name-dropping them on Kanopy.  And the comparisons are undeniable; the only issue with this is what I'll explain later.  But the nuts and bolts of this are really good, since if you have any familiarity at all with how thoroughly awful children can be to one another (and my memory is long enough to be all too familiar), then this can be almost too heavy, if anything.  I don't think this is as good as Girlhood, for example, which is also fairly similar not just with respect to subject matter but also the intensity of the camera work, but this is still a pretty strong first film that's very well-acted.  The big problem is...


    Rosetta - ...I watched this the very next day, and man, Playground lifted a TON from this movie, which is just loads better.  This made me start feeling a bit crazy at about the 15-second mark; that's how effective the pace and intensity and sheer noise of this movie can smack you about.  The acting is ridiculously great, but as often as not, I just found myself wondering how the Hell these guys pulled off some of this stuff.  How do you track fights that seem so chaotic?  I suppose I could Google an answer, because they've probably been asked that a thousand times in interviews, but even if it's something simple like, "Follow her left shoulder no matter what it does", there's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of quality to how this all works together that goes beyond whatever the techniques were. This will probably sound weird, since I'd bet large sums of money the Dardennes would cite Godard as an influence, but this is precisely why I can't fucking stand Godard's movies - because for all his farting about with the camera, it seemed like it hardly ever produced an emotional result like this.  And these guys did more in the first 15 seconds of their movie than he did in entire films.  I mean, what the Hell.  The ending is really something, too, but I think my favorite scene was the one where Rosetta tackles Riquet after he comes to visit her.  It's uncomfortable and crazy and violent and over-the-top like so much else, but it's such a great distillation of who she is, only ever meeting problems with the worst intentions and expectations on her mind.  Easy Top 100 Movies of the 90s pick.

  2. Honestly, skipping that crap till at least mid-game really does make it more manageable. Getting your RR safehouse set up first and giving yourself the time to crank out a couple of followers' perks without discovering more of the map than you want to makes it less of a hassle. Especially since I like to min-max a bit and hit Piper first. Though that does remind me that maybe my very favorite mod for the entire game is a simple one that gives followers the option to return to where you met them.


  3. I suppose I didn't make that clear enough; I have the free "upgrade", not the $20 ripoff one.  If I wanted to do Survival Mode, I could have done the mod version years ago.  Fishing is the dumbest RNG bullshit possible (how many different Zelda games have a better version of fishing in them?  Yeesh), so it bored me from the word go.  So really, the only included content that's "new" for me is Saints & Seducers, and...I'll get to that eventually I suppose.  I thought "Rare Curios" was going to be something more than a couple of Oblivion tchotchkes and some Morrowind alchemy crap.

    This playthrough has only been salvaged by also installing Inigo for the first time, and letting him bail me out of a bunch of situations I couldn't have handled on my own.  The changes to the load screens are decent, too.  Probably helps that I have a bunch of other mods anyway that delay vampires & Dragonborn stuff to specific points, since it never made any sense to me to do a standard playthrough, where you hit Ustengrav sub-level-10 and then suddenly the Cultists are walking out of the fog and electrocuting you and entire towns. 


  4. Hey, it's Monday.  You know the drill.  It's DAY 300 (and counting) of Whatever the Hell It Is I'm Doing, Enough Already with the Invocation of Body Horror Concepts in Real Life Edition.

    Hot Garbage

    Be Cool - I knew this would be awful.  I knew it, and I didn't heed the many calls that pointed out how bad it was, and I watched anyway.  I hate myself.   How did this even get made, anyway?  Should it have been skipped because:

    A) It's poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly scripted, and almost entirely unfunny,

    B) it's pervasively racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and basically every other thing you can think of (I was going to say "at least it doesn't have pedophiles", but hey, James Woods),

    C) nobody gave a shit about the characters because it was far too long since the original, or

    D) all of the above?  What in the actual fuck.

    Still not as bad as The Crow: Wicked Prayer or Seventh Son, though.


    Lost Girls and Love Hotels - This...probably could have gone down a notch, but despite the scarcity of plot and characters who just drift in and out, there are some interesting shots here that make it a little more effective than your typical shitty indie movie.  A lot of the quieter and crazier moments of the film do a good job of taking advantage of small rooms and the generally claustrophobic feel of a city full of so many people, people who fail to connect with each other and abscond to hotels to wring some pathetic bit of satisfaction from their lives.  And so you're left (even moreso than usual) as the voyeur who peers into their weird, kinky bullshit and wonders if they'll ever get their collective shit together.  Alexandra Daddario is more effective than you might otherwise expect as a broken, sweaty, screwed-up beauty who is escaping about 14 things at once, and despite the many, many, many, many bad sexual decisions she makes, she still carries a certain amount of functional (or perhaps willing) naïvete that makes you wonder how long she's got before her choices catch up with her.  Strange movie to find on the back end of Hulu's catalog, and while it's not "good" in a lot of ways, the craft here is *just* good enough to overcome some of its other problems.

    Hotel - Point/counterpoint to the last movie.  This was from 2013 and stars Alicia Vikander, and aside from the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes, I found it kind of insufferable.  The premise is fairly ludicrous, and I say this having just watched Pig.  But man, when Vikander wants to be a force of fucking nature, she is that and then some, and she is great in this, albeit in fits and starts.  David Dencik is also really great at times here, but most of the rest of the film is flat, unless you have some oddball reason to think the premise is somehow cute or relatable.  If you took the quality of acting here and added it to the quality of the cinematography from the last film, you could have had something really nice.  Instead, they're both kinda failures, and they're both kinda interesting.

    Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Didn't like as much as the first one, but I appreciate the change of pace.  Said more in the spoiler thread, but this is very much an Acceptable Movie.

    Tucker: The Man and His Dream && - Sort of a rewatch, as I know I've seen chunks of this several times over the years, but never the whole thing all the way through.  Mostly I remembered it via the Simpsons parody episode where Homer bankrupts his brother's car company.  And while I can do without Coppola's fucking nostalgia bullshit in general, at least the court case stuff at the end lifts this up a little.  Then again, if you fuck up court scenes, you have no business directing traffic, let alone a movie.  This has got to be the weirdest Dean Stockwell cameo I've seen, too; yes, significantly weirder than Blue Velvet, because at least he was *good* there.  Martin Landau is pretty good here, but otherwise, if the story were any less crazy, it wouldn't keep anyone's attention.

    Rabid - Good to know we actually *did* do a Cronenberg planet for the last 2+ years.  This is a pretty clear step down from the stuff he'd do eventually, but it has its moments, and Marilyn Chambers of all people drags this to watchability.  The matter-of-factness to this is what really works compared to so many other zombie movies.  It's not panic and madness; no, instead it's "Well, let's just pay some snipers time-and-a-half and get some squeegee guys out there, too, and we'll, uh, we'll clear up these zombies as they arrive, I guess.  Never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it again, eh?"  Even the undead can't break the gears of bureaucracy.

    Hustlers - Pretty close to being an Awesome, but as ever, awfully tired of the movie-framed-as-news-story structure.  The performances are pretty damn good across the board, even Lopez, who, after all, is just playing a True Neutral version of herself, rather than her actual Chaotic Evil alignment.  And it's both damning and sympathetic to nearly everyone, since everyone is not just abused but also some kind of abuser as well.  The writing is funny, and Lorene Scafaria just doesn't seem to drop the ball, even if the way it plays out feels like a distaff nod to Goodfellas and I don't like this anywhere near as much as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World


    The Audition - I watched this mostly because of Nina Hoss and some batshit crazy poster on Kanopy that suggested this was her "best performance".  I mean, c'mon, really? This, over Phoenix?  Nah.  Nope.  Uh-uh.  But she's still great; she spends a huge chunk of this movie perilously frozen between looks, just as liable to burst into a smile as into tears, and it isn't entirely clear why for quite a while.  Eventually, though, her story unspools itself, and you begin to understand why she's so self-destructive and so insufferable to her music student (think Whiplash minus wanting to punch everyone in the whole film, save Melissa Benoist, in the face).  But that understanding gets turned on its head, literally and metaphorically, by an absolutely nutso ending that leaves you wondering what the Hell you just watched.  It would probably feel too surprising or somehow unearned to some people, but the more I thought about it, the more it turned into an understandable through line for a whole family of screwed-up overachievers. 

  5. I started a new game because...because apparently I'm completely out of my goddamned mind.  Well, I also wanted to see the "new" content and so far, um, there is none?  I mean, I can smith some new arrows, and that...is...the extent.  Wow.  Boring.  I'm probably too low level to run off and do whatever Ri'saad cares about.  Wasn't about to spend money on this fucking game yet again, either.

    Plus, this is a little bit of an unusual playthrough.  I just, uh, don't have dragons.  Bleak Falls Barrow?  Nah.  Farengar and Baalgruuf?  Nah.  I'm gonna be over here mixing potions for about 6 months, we'll worry about your dumbass civil war and vampires and freakout sessions later.  I think I'll just make my way to literally every single Word Wall and learn them all safely first!  Oh, hey, look, they put 3 skeletons in at each of those locations when you haven't spawned dragons yet.  Hahahah, oh, those zany skeletons and their attacks, ho-ho, I'm awful spookied!

    Having shotgunned about 2 months' worth of Witcher 3 at the end of last year, I'm also realizing what a bush-league game Skyrim really is.

    • Haha 1
  6. 8 hours ago, Brian Fowler said:

    Yeah but I don't see how there's more money in switching the order around. They took a day off, cool, makes sense. But then they are also flipping the order of which games are played the first night. If they had just kept Bucks/Celtics and Dubs/Grizz tonight, all four series would've gotten two days off and they would still have two games tonight and two tomorrow.

    I don't see where there's more money in flipping it and giving those four teams three days off and keeping the other four teams playing every other night. 

    There's money in recognizing other sports also happen in the same buildings.

  7. 22 hours ago, Infinit said:

    I REALLY REALLY REALLY wonder what Belichick thought about all this lol

    "On to Cincinatti...........'s owner." (j/k, Burrow clearly has that locked down if he wants)

    • Haha 1
  8. I dunno.


    I liked this.  It's good.  But, I mean, most of these movies are "good" without being substantial.  The one moment in this that actually does approach something meaningful is the emotional climax of the film, and it boils the stakes of infinite lives down to the reaction of two scared kids.  So, if you have to get one spot in the film right, that's the right one to choose.  But the rest of it just feels a lot like "Sam Raimi doing Sam Raimi shit" and I expect we're going to get a lot of that going forward from other directors.

    Was this as compelling a multiverse movie as Everything...  - nope, not within an alternate universe of being as good.  Was it a good Dr. Strange movie?  Mostly.  But the parade of "Yet another Stephen who was seduced by power" gets very old, very quickly.  Was it a good Marvel movie?  Yeah, and that's going to sort of be the problem I'm foreseeing.  Nothing is going to threaten the potential to make the Mouse money, and that will drive their story choice and their storytelling. 

    I think I'm just done grading these on a curve.


    • Like 1
  9. Yeah.  Movies.  Monday.  Stuff.  We're here.  It's Day 293 (and counting) of Movie Nonsense, Enough with the Period Pieces Edition.

    Hot Garbage

    Deep Water - What EVA said, except Tracy Letts is not the least bit entertaining in this film, because almost no one is.  It's still only watchable when Ana de Armas seductively diddles herself, and even then, it's far more dull and dreary than it ought to be.  Something is very, very, very, very, very wrong with your movie when the mid-credits outtake of a 7-year-old singing the Bee Gees or whatever in the back of a car is far and away the highlight of your movie.  I haven't read Patricia Highsmith's books, so I wonder if this is a case of bad source material, bad adaptation, or the "aromatic" blend of both.  Adrian Lyne is still kind of the right guy to make this sort of movie, though, as you can see him sort of going through all the old highlights, if you're familiar with his stuff.  Otherwise, skip.

    A Good Woman - I thought about putting this in Acceptable for a minute or two, but even Oscar Wilde can't save this.  It's just...ehhh, it's at best an overacted, uninteresting attempt at something Ivory/Merchant-ish without decent performances or noteworthy direction.  For the most part, it just feels like the characters are huddled around so they can riff on the best bits of the script, rather than inhabiting a world of their own.  Plus, I found myself wondering how much different this story might have been had Wilde been born in a more modern time; I think if he'd directed it himself, it'd still be funny, but it'd probably also be hilariously smutty and inappropriate, and I wonder when someone's going to have the good sense to lean into that for an adaptation of his.


    Jack Goes Boating - I don't quite know what to think of this, except that I'm not going to watch it again to find out.  Hoffman directed this as well as starring in it, and while I've never been as over the moon about his acting as other people were, he's good here, bottled up and clearly a strange, twitchy bastard the entire time, and you just wait for the top to come off, which it eventually does.  The side drama of the two friends is believable and well-done and well-acted, but I think my problem with this is ultimately Amy Ryan.  Well, it's not her, because I love her and she's never anything less than excellent, but she's probably not the right casting for this role.  The character has some traumatic shit of her own to deal with, but you very much get the impression from the way she talks that, even without the events of the film, she was also just as strange and twitchy, and so it's hard to deconvolute the "new stuff that happened" from the "was always this way" parts of what you should take away from her.  And putting Amy Ryan in a role where you're expecting her to kind of be a bit small and lack presence at times is a bit of a fail, even if she's a Hell of an actor. 

    Body Heat - I have a pile of movies in my life that exist like this one, on the edges of my memories, where I think I've seen them or was subjected to bits of them when I was younger, but I never sat down to watch them.  This feels a little rote as far as noirs go, and that's especially true having watched China Moon a few months ago.  The latter movie is in no way better than this - if anything, it's a pale copy - but of course, even this movie is a copy, so after the torrid initial phases of the film, it kind of slows down and feels like it's about 10 minutes too long because you've seen all this before.  But Lawrence Kasdan did have a couple of decent tricks up his sleeve that keep it a little unusual at times, like that totally oddball Ted Danson tapdance routine and the shots just before the big finale where everyone gets what's coming to them.  And plus, the ending is one of those, "This is the ending, take it or leave it" kind of things you don't really get anymore.  But it leans ultra-hard on Hurt & Turner and their chemistry, because it doesn't really have a ton else going for it.  That said, it is probably the one and only time Kathleen Turner was even 10% as hot as everyone made her out to be in the 80s.

    Death on the Nile - I mostly want to punch Kenneth Branagh in the face for a multitude of reasons, but this is one of his less punch-worthy performances of late.  I didn't see the other adaptation they did; I'm frankly a little surprised this got made, even, after that flopped so hard.  But this isn't too bad.  It's not exactly great, either, as ensemble movies are either just enough of everything in the right place, like Tombstone, or sort of rushed and over-stuffed, like this.  And of course, if you've seen one Agatha Christie-inspired movie, you've seen them all, because they're all structured the same.  On some level, you kind of find yourself wanting to just skip past all that and get to what's different.  To the good is the beginning and the ending, which both give some detail and much-needed humanity to the characters.  To the bad is some of the CGI, which makes you wonder how much COVID impacted this.  Then again, one of the most egregious green-screens in the whole movie is one of our favorite cannibal, Armie Hammer, alone against the backdrop of a hotel, so you wonder, really, how fucking hard is it to get ONE SHOT on location?  So, overall, this is unsurprisingly in the middle.

    Titane - *sigh* I know, I know.  Should be higher, right?  Well, it should, except for Vincent Lindon.  Maybe it's the wrestling, maybe it's my needle phobia, maybe it's my general distaste for almost anything hyper-masculine, but watching some gross old guy cling to his fucked-up notion of who he's supposed to be is something I can do without.  Plus, given the implications this movie makes about who he was and the choices he made, he's, well, he's not a good person, and it makes it that much harder to find a reason to support the redemption journey he takes.  Agathe Rousselle is great, the visuals are great, the messaging is great, the themes are great, but having half the movie tied up with someone I couldn't relate to, or like, or do less than loathe, really, made this hard to appreciate.  Maybe it will age better with subsequent viewings - whenever I actually work up the nerve for those, because YEEESH this is fucking intense.  No wonder Cronenberg came out of retirement.


    Pig - I think this just squeaks its way into Awesome because it runs contrary to so many expectations.  The first 20 or 30 minutes are more than a little ridiculous at times - "Hobo Anthony Bourdain Goes to Underground Waiter Fight Club to Track Down Prize Truffle Pig, Where People Pay a Month's Wages to Fight Him" has got to be the most ludicrous plot point ever in a movie played otherwise this straight.  I couldn't agree more that this is one of Cage's best roles, though it just makes me wonder, "Why now?"  How many of his other movies might have been improved with a little restraint from time to time?  Is the rest of the film really noteworthy enough for him to suddenly show up and hit one out of the park?  Maybe, but then again, maybe instead of playing up or down to the quality of the material so severely, he could, I don't know, do fewer fucking movies that are huge piles of shit.  But anyway, this!  This is just...not what you expect.  Both this and Titane are top of the heap with respect to, "The less you know going in, the better." Opening and closing on the river, and that strange, beautiful, terrible monologue in the middle about earthquakes are good perspectives to keep; this kind of washes over you, just like it does everyone in the film, and no one has the control they think they do, no matter how tightly they grasp it.

    Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

    Putney Swope - This is one of those movies that makes me feel like an asshole for even talking about it.  What the Hell are you supposed to say about this that hasn't already been said, and probably in a handful of doctoral dissertations a year at that?  But I don't think I've laughed this hard at a movie in years.  I was a guy who loved Mad Men and still thinks it's a great TV show, but here was this, almost 40 years prior, being a million percent more honest and believable than that show ever was about what those fuckers were and are still doing.  It's a good reminder that D. Boon was right; let the products sell themselves.  So, I guess I don't really need to talk about this movie; it sells itself, too.

    • Like 2
  10. My knee is barking like crazy at me.  Not sure if it's the extra squatting or the leg press, but something in there is not great.  I can probably work around it, but not 100% sure how.

    My shoulders, on the other hand, have finally revealed their true evil nature and shown me the real path to pain and suffering.  I did some of Arnold's lateral raises leaning into a 45-degree bench, and even a 15-lb weight made my arms fucking SCREAM in the first 20-40 degrees of motion.  I don't know if that means I completely fucked my supraspinatus or something else, but I think I can safely say it's not my goddamned rotator cuff.  Holy God that hurt - easily the single worst gym-related pain I've ever felt.

    • Sad 2
  11. Really sucks for Justyn Ross.  To show out like he did in the championship game against Alabama (and I saw a lot of his games prior to that, he was just getting better as the season progressed) and then have what seems like everything literally break against him for 2 years and end up undrafted is pretty awful.  There's a part of me that hopes he gets to play so he can get some money out of his time, but most of the things I've seen about it suggest it's the doctors who oversaw him dropping straight out of the draft entirely.  Really shitty situation.

    • Sad 1
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