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2021 MOVIES DISCUSSION


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Saw Dune last night. First time I've been in a theatre since a matinee showing of Cats on January 1st, 2020. Honestly part of me was at peace with the idea of that being my last ever live movie experience.

Was a bit of a shock to be back in a completely full theatre, but I'm really glad I went. Loved the movie, looked absolutely gorgeous. Very 70s/80s scifi vibes in the costumes and sets. Beyond the obvious parallels to the Lynch version, the movie I kept thinking about while watching it was Zardoz.

Loved the score though I thought it did overpower the dialogue at times. I definitely missed some exposition, but nothing experience breaking.

Performances were great all around with Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson being my personal highlights.

One negative and this is no fault of her own, but the internet has ruined Zendaya for me. Every time she appears on screen my brain, without fail, goes "Zendaya is Meechee." Every....single....time. Pretty tough when even before she appears as a character, she shows up in 5 or 6 dream sequences.

If you can get past that, it is well worth seeing on the big screen.

Zendaya is Meechee

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Normally, I like doing these every 10 days, but when you see something really, really stinky bad, you just have to share it, like a chili fart you've Dutch-Ovened for your girlfriend/wife, and you can't help but shove her head under the covers.  So, hey hey, it's the Spooky Day, Day 109 (and counting) of Movie Reviewin', Terrible Horror Movies Edition.

Hot Garbage

Secret Window - Oh, hey, look, it's Angel Heart with a different hammy actor and the same lame twist, minus all the actual fun things.  I mean, Maria Bello was right there and you couldn't do some weird sex stuff? And by the way, she really has the worst luck, a massive collection of decent performances in otherwise terrible movies.  I love what Brian Cox had to say about Johnny Depp in his new book, because this is exactly the sort of movie that shows what he's talking about.  But as bad as this is, I wonder if it even makes the Bottom 5 Stephen King adaptations.  Probably, but only just.

The Raven - I suppose some might consider this Lugosi/Karloff number a classic, but, well, I'm not one of those people.  Movies like this are partly why Poe has a "macabre" label, when really his stuff is shot through with a lot more satire and humor than he gets credit for.  Try to read "Fall of the House of Usher" closely and tell me he was taking that shit seriously.  But no, let's just slap his name on a movie with a creepy guy doing creepy shit, and then have a few creepy props and say Poe inspired it all.  Right.  Sure.  Uh-huh.  Thankfully, this is barely over an hour long, so you don't lose much on it.  About the only redeemable thing in it is Karloff, who - at least before things go pear-shaped for him - gets to have one pretty good scene as a frightened bank robber/murderer on the run.

Lord of Illusions - Oh boy.  Another movie whose commercials were absolutely PLASTERED on MTV circa 1995, and this is just dreadful.  Sorry, Clive, it's dreadful all right, but not in the way you thought it would be.  Bad acting, atrociously bad special effects, bad script, bad ideas.  I think the video game Phantasmagoria came out the same year as this and looked better - Hell, it made more sense, too, and it also had magicians.  The noir elements of this are...well, they're not awful, but they are definitely hackneyed (another detective named Harry?  REALLY?), so at least one thing about it is merely mediocre.  On the plus side, I remembered seeing Scott Bakula without his shirt off from the commercials, and I thought to myself, "Hey, I want to look like that when I'm his age," and I pretty much do!  So, win!

The Hottest of Hot Hot A-List Dumpster Lovin'

In Dreams - Oh, what the fuck did I just put myself through?  *Announcer voice* "In a world where Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr star in a movie directed by The Crying Game's Neil Jordan, you have to ask yourself, 'Just how bad can it get?' It can get. REAL. FUCKING. BAD."  This is...I don't even know where to begin about how stupid this is.  See, she has these dreams, and they show her things, and with no setup at all, we're just supposed to believe that the dreams are legitimate visions.  And then when one does come true, it's a standard case of Your Child Is a Convenient Plot Device, so we'll kill her off so you go crazy, and now, now, NOW! Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy, the killer knows you're dreaming about him!  No reason, just because!  And so now the killer's in YOUR head, and he can know things about YOU so he starts fucking up the rest of your life and everyone think's YOU'RE the crazy one!  Oh boy oh boy oh boy!  And hey, have I mentioned that the killer is *gasp* a violent cross-dresser?  That's so original!  Oh, and there are APPLES.  There are just apples everywhere!  There are so many apples, this movie probably caused a temporary spike in the price of apples when it was filmed!  So many apples, you'd go crazier than the killer if you tried to count them all!  And somehow this is all shot earnestly, without a scintilla of parody or humor to be found! 

There are only two positive things I can muster from this movie.  1) I think I've now actually seen a thriller worse than Gothika, which is truly one of the dumbest piles of shit you'll ever see, and this blows right past it; and 2) if I ever directed or wrote a movie that Robert Downey, Jr. starred in, and he bitched about the dialogue of a scene or how he wanted to play it, and I really wanted to tell him his ideas were dumb, I could just say, "OK, Vivian Thompson, you have fun with that."  And then I would get to watch his head explode when he remembered he starred in this turd.

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

Acceptable

The Mummy (1933) - This is a damn sight better than The Raven, and it has to be a pretty early instance of The Princess Saves Herself in Western film.  I think a lot of the film doesn't age that well, but the set pieces are sometimes pretty good, and this is another instance where Karloff actually elevates the material beyond simply being creepy or outlandish.  It's worth watching just to see how much fluff they added to the Fraser/Weisz version, but also how much that fluff keeps the picture moving along nicely and changes the story from a dry 75 minutes of Dumb Old People Slowly Catching on to the Bad Guy and into 2 hours of a good action movie.

Control - I'd caught maybe 5 minutes of this before at some point, just flipping through channels, and I always meant to revisit it.  While Sam Riley was already a singer, I was really impressed with how well the actors performed the songs for the club scenes otherwise.  But if you're at all familiar with his story, I don't know how much more this film adds to that, aside from giving you a credible set of performances to root it in a time and place.  The one really strange thing about the film is also the thing you know is going to happen.  A movie about Ian Curtis? Well, when are they going to play "Love Will Tear Us Apart"? That's what's weird: the moment in the film feels, if anything, like a bit of release and catharsis for the man, and it's almost upbeat in a way.  The problem, of course, is that the film casts him as someone who lacked the courage of his convictions, which...when you're staring down a medical situation like that, it's more than a little unfair.  The rest of his life, whether he cheated on his wife or not? Yeah, that was tractable, but not the epilepsy, not 40 years ago.

Awesome

UHF - Even if you just view this as the forebear to Rick & Morty's Infinite TV episodes, it's worth a watch just for the sight gags, absurd commercials, and ridiculous sketches.  Throw in a couple of timely movie spoofs, a classic Weird Al track, a little bit of Emo Phillips mutilation, and Michael Richards - by the way, Stanley Spadowski >>> Kramer - and you have straight comedy gold.  Plot?  Who cares!  Acting? Who cares!  Aliens invading Earth for the tiniest of reasons?  Who cares!  This is how you do funny.

Edited by Contentious C
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I’m still leaning towards this being a bit, like they’re trying to create a Covid-era The Room. I can’t believe there’s anyone in 2021 that would have the necessary deficit of instincts and technical skill to think that trailer is acceptable. 

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2 hours ago, (BP) said:

I’m still leaning towards this being a bit, like they’re trying to create a Covid-era The Room. I can’t believe there’s anyone in 2021 that would have the necessary deficit of instincts and technical skill to think that trailer is acceptable. 

Do you pay attention to current events?

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I saw about exactly half of Road to Perdition on TV earlier. I guess it was alright, but I don't see the big hype. Boardwalk Empire did the whole vibe better IMO and had more interesting characters. They even had a better character who got shot in the face! Plus, what was up with the music? That's some positive and almost jaunty sounding shit for a movie soaked in rain and snow and gloom. It's like Tom Hanks had a stip in his contract that said "no downer music". 

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Huh, 10 days went by way too fast.  I guess that's what being mad at the world does for you.  So, it's day 119 (and counting) of movie bullshit, Been Meaning to Watch That Edition.

Hot Garbage

Halloween II - Well, now I know no one can blame the Saw movies for starting the trend of predictable, trope-y, boring, pointless exercises in setting up deaths, because hey, here's literally the exact same thing 20 years earlier.  This has no redeeming qualities to it unless you like watching Donald Pleasence scarper around like a deranged gnome.  I guess maybe I'm OK with that, at the very least.

Acceptable

21 Grams - This was real, real, real close to falling in the Hot Garbage category, because MAN is it pretentious as fuck.  I'd seen Babel prior to this and hated it, and this is kind of the same movie, down to the fact that one actor saves the whole damn thing.  For that film, it was Rinko Kikuchi, and for this one, it's Naomi Watts.  She just acts the shit out of this thing, and had she won Best Actress over Charlize Theron that year, I think it might have been more deserving.  Big surprise these movies are written or co-written by Guillermo Arriaga, who wrote & directed the near-pile-of-shit-except-for-the-actors The Burning Plain, which I talked about months ago.  Innaritu should really just write his own material; this isn't in the same galaxy as Birdman.  Oh, del Toro and Melissa Leo are pretty good in it, but when are they not?

Eternals - I'm not sure I have anything more to add to this than what's already been touched on in the Spoiler-heavy thread.  It's not the last MCU movie I'd rewatch, but it's awfully close; it's one I would probably only see if I did a full marathon.

Niagara - I didn't feel like this is a particularly good noir movie, but it's all right at times.  Maybe I just don't like Joseph Cotten; in fact, I didn't like either of the male leads, because the other husband has literally the most punchable face in Hollywood history.  I mean, imagine if Miles Teller had been cast as the Joker for that boring-ass solo movie Joaquin Phoenix did: it's that punchable and then some.  But hey, you're here for one reason and one reason only, and that's Marilyn Monroe's star-making performance, and yeah, you can't take your eyes off her.  The colors in the movie are splashy and in your face, and she owns every scene she's in, though Jean Peters does an admirable job of keeping up with her.  The one big murder scene that happens on-camera is a really well-shot piece of work, too, but otherwise this is fairly run of the mill (at least by today's standards).

Love & Other Drugs - I don't know what confuses me more about this movie's existence: that Edward Zwick made something so light-heartedly raunchy (I mean, he did Legends of the Fall, so he's done steamy-raunchy), or that Pfizer let their name be attached to it.  This could have easily ended up in the Hot Garbage category too, because the plot is more generic than the drugs. 

"Hey, look guys, it's Super-Dick!, who's never met a woman he couldn't satisfy!  But then he meets The Goal, and she's super-unattainable!  I mean, not only does she not want a relationship, but she's gonna die a horrible death, too, so she's unattainable even if he attains her!  But that's Super-Dick! for you!  He makes the Big Romantic Gesture, and The Goal Falls Hard!  But then Super-Dick!'s obsession with Fighting the Impossible Fight (i.e. curing her disease) upsets The Goal, and she leaves, so we get the Final Super Saiyan Over 9000 Big Romantic Gesture that crushes The Goal's ability to resist Super-Dick! just as hard as her Parkinson's is crushing her brain!  Hahahaha! Happily ever after until she turns into a vegetable who craps her pants daily!" 

That's how the studio pitch went, verbatim.  It's only because they do a fair job of helping you see the nuance and daily life of Parkinson's patients, and because Anne Hathaway is pretty darn good, that this isn't Hot Garbage.

House of Sand & Fog - Another 2003 acting nomination crossed off the list with this, but while Ben Kingsley is pretty good at times here, his character still feels, I don't know...weirdly underdeveloped.  The details of what's happening are clear, but the why is not always done well, especially with respect to who he was in Iran and why they left aside from simply conjuring up the boogeyman of "Because Politics".  This might have been better with a clearer look into that aspect of the film, and if they hadn't cast Ron Eldard as one of the fulcrum point roles of the movie, because he's, uh, a TV actor on his best day.  He just has no business being in something where Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly are acting circles around him the whole time.  The score for the movie is pretty nice at times, and it's quite the series of gut punches if you aren't familiar with the book, but this is just good instead of excellent.

The Only Living Boy in New York - I don't know what to think of this.  On one hand, it's got annoying, tedious narration to start.  On the other, it has a few good, novelistic, deep-dive monologues that are my kind of fun.  On one hand, Kate Beckinsale and Pierce Brosnan are about as good here as they've ever been in anything (granted, that isn't saying a whole lot); on the other, the whole plot of the movie is manipulative and ludicrous.  I think the movie it most reminds me of is Slumdog Millionaire, which is an even more perverse version of the same kind of film: this notion that other people have to suffer constantly so one person can have a good life and be "lucky" is an idea that can basically go fuck itself.  I mean, hey, we already have capitalism reminding us of that with every decision we make; I don't think we need it from our art, too.

Out of the Past - I watched this mostly because I have a strange obsession with the remake, Against All Odds; I was the right age for the Phil Collins song to make an impression on me...well, that and Rachel Ward.  I actually never finished watching the '84 movie, but I finished this, and it's pretty solid.  The writing is a cut above other movies from the era, and certainly better than other noirs, with Robert Mitchum getting his share of snide zingers in on practically everyone.  Kirk Douglas is somehow an even more dead-eyed version of the Big Bad than James Woods is, and that's really covering some ground there, since James Woods is such a creepjob.

Light Sleeper - Man, this could have made Awesome if it weren't for Tedious Narration.  Also, the attempt at adding original music falls absurdly flat, as every song is just hitting you with the Sledgehammer of Foreshadowing, and the general tone of the songs is akin to the "Real Men of Genius" Bud commercials (I know those came years later, but you can't unhear that).  The climax does play out rather similarly to Taxi Driver, too, which makes me wonder if Paul Schrader can end a movie any way except violently.  But Willem Dafoe is great, and Dana Delany is probably better here than anything else of hers I've seen, so now I can say I love seeing her in movies and that she *can* act right there with the best of them, when she's opposite someone awesome and given good material.  The last shots of the film seem like a pretty obvious nod to Pickpocket, so I guess now I can say I'm glad I saw that to understand the reference.

Sword of Trust - This might have been the closest to Awesome out of this batch.  The first 20-30 minutes are...not particularly good.  I mean, it's an indie movie, but it's shot almost a little like a 2-camera TV show for a bit there, and it's just not compelling.  It then tries to become increasingly absurd without giving you any strong investment in the characters, but about halfway through...holy fucking shit, does this drop the hammer on you.  The ladies in the movie are just whoever they are and you get to watch them do zany stuff, but Marc Maron's character reveals the magical hidden depths you were hoping someone would have, and everyone else has to play off of the heavy shit he's laying on them for about 5 minutes.  It's one of the best hard left turns I've ever seen in a comedy, and the thing is, as screwed-up as that bit is, it *finally* makes the rest of the comedy in the film play the right way.  It's difficult to think of this too much as a satire, because real life has perniciously made things like this all too real, but it definitely makes me sad that Lynn Shelton is gone and we won't get more movies like this.

Edited by Contentious C
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The scene in the back of the truck in Sword of Trust is definitely the heart of the movie. It’s what tuned me into the right frequency to appreciate the film as a madcap fusion of indie dramedy and screwball caper movie. 

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Guys I think I'm tired of Dwayne Johnson. That's weird to say because he was easily my favourite guy during the Attitude era and I was proud as a fan when he started getting small roles in movies and then exploded into a megastar, but man his cinematic persona is kinda boring now (plus he seems to be everywhere - multiple movies, Young Rock, some ninja warrior type show, etc) He needs to play some grizzled bad guys for a while instead of the jovial, wise cracking, could beat your ass but is kind of a softie thing he's got going now.

Jungle Cruise is a mess of a film, and it's not especially down to him, though I think a more charismatic male lead would've been better here. Edgar Ramirez is in this film, and I think he would've worked better in this role. But easily the worst thing about this film is the huge overuse of poor CGI. I can't believe they sat on this thing for over a year and still thought the CGI was presentable. I watched [b]Anaconda[/b] last month and one of the things I liked about the film was that you could tell it was filmed on location. One of the things I really miss about older films is that they actually take the crew and cast out and put them in these places, they build actual sets, or use actual boats. There was not one moment of this film where I believed anybody was not in a soundstage in front of a green screen, and it some places it looks atrocious. In addition, the editing of certain sequences was dreadful. The opening scene in the museum and the fight at the harbour are stunningly bad examples of this. Just horrendous combinations of superfast cutting leaving the viewer with no sense of placement within the scene. Also someone needs to tell Jack Whitehall he's not particularly funny.

Red Notice is better than the last film. Not as noticeably reliant on CGI and has some decent action, but it's just kind of blah overall. The kind of thing you forget by the next day. I'm a sucker for these type of secret history, long lost hidden treasure movies. I adore the Indiana Jones movies, I unironically enjoy the National Treasure movies, love the Tomb Raider and Uncharted games, even enjoyed a couple Dan Brown books, I love this kind of stuff, but they work when the characters are earnestly interested in the treasure they're seeking. Here, you have Ryan Reynolds yukking it up the whole time, calling treasure hunters "lonely nerds", whistling the Indian Jones theme, and at one point saying "maybe we should be looking for the box marked Macguffin" Hur hur. In fact, Reynolds is an obnoxious presence lately, just playing Deadpool in every movie, and can please go away any day now. Thanks.

I actually also watched Journey 2: The Mysterious Island recently. The Rock in an earlier role is better here, and the film is just a fun kids film treating the work of Jules Verne as if it was non-fiction. Absolutely goofy, but enjoyable fluff.

The Rock sure loves his jungle movies though huh? The above three, the two Jumanji movies (one subtitled Welcome to the Jungle), The Rundown (at one point also titled Welcome to the Jungle), that giant gorilla movie, Moana, one of the F&F movies takes place in Samoa/Hawaii for a while.

Edited by Swift
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Completely agree about The Rock. I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but he stopped being an interesting actor years ago. Just gives the same performance in every movie now, like an animatronic. He’s become a Brand instead of an actor, and we’re all the worse off for it.

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