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What ELSE (other than KUNG FU) has everyone been watching?

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I can handle most Hollywood CGI scenes these days, but if the car scenes are too noticeable it can be a real detriment (Oh I hate fake car accidents like the one in Man of Tai Chi.)

You're one tolerant brother, Master. I find my aversion to a lot of Hollywood CGI still unrelenting. And talking about 'fake car accidents', I sure as hell share your hatred for 'em. One of the most cringeworthy I have ever seen was the one towards the end of KIDNAP, the one where Karena Lam gets run over. Catapulted me right out of this otherwise immensely watchable Law Chi Leung character drama. I mean, a mere ten seconds spoiled the whole satisfation for me. That's how bad this shit was executed!

Edited by Sheng

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You're one tolerant brother, Master. I find my aversion to a lot of Hollywood CGI still unrelenting. And talking about 'fake car accidents', I sure as hell share your hatred for 'em. One of the most cringeworthy I have ever seen was the one towards the end of KIDNAP, the one were Karena Lam gets run over. Catapulted me right out of this otherwise immensly watchable Law Chi Leung character drama. I mean, a mere ten seconds spoiled the whole satisfation for me. That's how bad this shit was executed!

Notice I said newer Hollywood :).  I have more trouble with certain older Hollywood CGI (though there is a certain nostalgia and interest in scenes like Young Sherlock Holmes) and say most Hong Kong (or any say new Thailand CGI). There is certainly an art to it though and can be used decently (like I was surprised when I found out some of the effects in Forrest Gump.)  Its funny how animation say from early Disney days still looks good, but you find easily horrific early use of CGI (name most countries use.)  In a way I do not have as much trouble with optical effects and other old styles  (say Ray Harryhausen or even a good use of matte paintings; or ingenious use of forced perspective in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.)

 

I'll have to see than one in Kidnap. It is interesting how one scene can take you out of the mood of a film, by a fakeness or some bizarre non-reality that just does not work like when I'm watching Ghost and wondering why Patrick Swayze has trouble with doors yet can walk stairs and sit in chairs with no problems.

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Some of those 1980 TV series have pretty good action since real cars were used, stuntmen (although obvious such as in The Fall Guy) were in heavier demand (no CGI :D) and because of that were more aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.  Though on the big screen is where that non-CGI is missed from me.  Will there be a real massive pile-up again like the ones in The Blues Brothers

 

I am a Liam Neeson fan too and think he is used well here.  Unfortunately George Peppard died in the mid-90s (still too young in his mid 60s), though I do not know even if he was healthy would he have made it 15 or so years.  But I do think you might give it another chance in a few years from now.  I do think it is well done and I liked it more the second time watching it.


I can handle most Hollywood CGI scenes these days, but if the car scenes are too noticeable it can be a real detriment (Oh I hate fake car accidents like the one in Man of Tai Chi.)

I think CGI is over used now in Hollywood and some of its poorly done too even by major studios. I can handle the CGI in the fantasy/sci fi films when its done right.T he A-Team is much more pleasing to the eyes than a lot of modern shows that can be badly lit, edited and framed. Not that everything new is badly made because there's some great T.V productions now that knock the some of 80's stuff out of the water.

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The Woman in the Window (1944: Fritz Lang)
 
Fritz Lang directed two in a row with Edward G. Robinson with this being the first.  They are two solid film noirs with the second Scarlet Street being the better of the two, though this is the more fun.  Both films skirt the Hays Code (something Lang could do quite often like Alfred Hitchcock, in fact a big chunk of this film feels Hitchcockian), especially with the endings (which I cannot discuss without spoilers.)
 
Robinson stars as a semi-famous doctor who gets involved with the subject of an oil painting when she invites him back to her place (after she found him starring at her picture) to see more of drawings of her.  All is well until a jealous patron of her picture comes to kill the professor and instead gets himself stabbed with scissors over and over again (much like the demise in Dial M for Murder.)  They make the decision to cover-up this murder which might make things much worse for them.

I do wonder if the ending here negates too much of the movie and/or just makes it easier to take.  I am sure this type of ending predates film, though right now I can only think of at least one major film before this that used a similar ending.
 
Lang is an excellent director and auteur with such films as Metropolis, M, and The Big Heat (often considered his best noir.)  He came from Germany at the time of the rise of the Nazi’s who basically destroyed their film industry which once rivaled America.  Lang stated he fled after being offered a high position in their political film cabinet, but there is some conflicting information on what actually occurred.  He would end his career in Germany though.
 
Since it is near Halloween M is a good watch for this month.

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The Cat and the Canary (1939: Elliot Nugent: ***/****):

This often filmed tale originally written as a play in 1922 by John Willard. The most famous version before this was the silent directed by Paul Leni (1927; a must watch for fans of early horror), but this remake takes a comedic turn with Bob Hope as the jocular actor Wally Campbell whom is invited to an “old dark house” in the middle of the Louisiana bayou. The plot points are well familiar to fans of older horror (or TV). Relatives of an eccentric millionaire are all invited to stay the night at this reclusive house to hear the last will and testament 10 years after the death of the owner. A distant relative Joyce Norman (Paulette Goddard, Modern Times) is the recipient of the will, but she has to stay of sane mind and alive for at least a month or the will reverts to a second person whose name is hidden in an envelope only known to a lawyer (and one other person.) Will she last the night with possibly plotting relatives, a scheming servant and a wandering psychopath loose from the insane asylum?

Fans (I am one of them) of Bob Hope should especially like this film as he is quite hilarious here, though really no different a character then he would use many times forward. His quips, self-deprecation and cowardly demeanor work well here since it is a comedic and suspenseful movie. My favorite line is his response to being afraid of big empty houses: “Not me, I used to be in vaudeville” though there is a Jack Benny line that was pretty good as well. Gale Sondergaard as Ms. Lu the housekeeper is also quite effective and you would see her again in this type of role several times for example in The Black Cat (1941) and work with Bob Hope again in My Favorite Blonde (1942) and Road to Rio (1947). This is a fun movie that has a brisk pace and perfect for fans of early horror. The film does have some so-so performances (some overacting from Goddard), a well-worn script, but these things are not a big hindrance if you are familiar with films of this era.
 
Since it is pre-Road films; sans Bing Crosby in any cameo.  One of the great in-jokes for many years was the appearance or mention of one or the other between these two actors in either of their films.  One of the greatest running gags in all of cinema.
 
This is available in two Bob Hope sets as well as a DVD-R release, but get the Bob Hope Classic Comedy Collection set which has 10 movies and is the same price as the DVD-R. The Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection was good when it first came out, but the first one mentioned has even more films and is less expensive, making the earlier set moot.

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The premise of The Cat and the Canary has also been spoofed in a Laurel & Hardy short, hasn't it ? There's a short where they find Stan Laurel's uncle is dead and they must go to an old manor with a really creepy butler and all the other heirs seem to mysteriously disappear during the night they stay in the place. Not sure what it's called, but it's one of their most elaborate (and overall best) shorts.

 

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The premise of The Cat and the Canary has also been spoofed in a Laurel & Hardy short, hasn't it ? There's a short where they find Stan Laurel's uncle is dead and they must go to an old manor with a really creepy butler and all the other heirs seem to mysteriously disappear during the night they stay in the place. Not sure what it's called, but it's one of their most elaborate (and overall best) shorts.

Directed by Charlie Chase's brother and available in the Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection (seriously get this if you do not own it).  Shown below, however the youtube print while looking good is stretched.
 

Edited by masterofoneinchpunch

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Yeah, that's the one. Man I love this short, used to have it on a VHS along with a couple others - and some scenes (like the bat/ghost scene) made it in a compilation of their best parts. Not sure how good of an idea it is (some of the scenes work better in the context of the film, though I gotta say it got me interested in some specific titles of theirs as well), but mind you it was many years before youtube came up and people could post their favorite scenes on there.

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Curse of Chucky - Huge fan of the first one, this one is forgettable.

 

The Screaming Skull 1958 - Watched this off youtube, so the audio wasn't to good. This is one of those movies I'd like to be transported back in time so I could watch it in the theater, still stands up today, that f'n self portrait of the recently deceased wife still freaks me out.

 

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Cream: The Official Story of the 1960's super group featuring Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker.

The Gauntlet: Over the top 70' action starring Clint Eastwood and his then wife Sandra Locke.

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I recently rewatched three Milkyway Image films in my quest to explore more Johnnie To's work (both as director and producer).

 

Election (2005, Johnnie To) - I first saw this film a couple of years ago and didn't quite get it. It seemed cold to me, without any kind of emotion and very confusing. There was too many characters (I didn't know who was who) and I couldn't sympathise with anyone - which is the main point of whole story. No gloryfying of triads and old tradions vs. modern world and hunger for money and power. Now, everything makes sense and I love it.

 

Election 2 (2006, Johnnie To) - I would say that best way to enjoyed it is to saw it immediately after first part. Most important characters returns, yet style and story are completely different. Music, light and shadows, gloomy atmosphere... In my opinion best To's film to date. And very important film after 1997 handover in terms of mainland goverment's influence on Hong Kong politics.

 

Mad Detective (2007, Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai) - When To and Wai team up it's in most cases for their romcoms. But this is good suprise. Again, it didn't click with me at first, because I thought that it's supposed to be some hybrid between comedy and mystery. When I watched it last night I was drawn in pretty quickly. Only character that Andy On portrayed seemed rushed to me.

+

Johnnie Got His Gun! (2010, Yves Montmayeur) - Documentary about about To covering his period from The Mission to start of shooting Life Without Principle. Maybe good watch for people who know nothing abouth his work, but for fans nothing new.

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The Carrier (Andrew Woodley, 2015) - I saw this on a screener and it involved an antibiotic-resistant pandemic and the only safe place left is the air. My full review is here: https://worldfilmgeek.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/review-the-carrier-2015/

 

From Vegas to Macau (Wong Jing, 2014) - I enjoyed it. It was supposed to be connected to the God of Gamblers films, but is somewhat more of a updated reboot, or something like it. Then again, with Wong Jing, anything is possible. Chow Yun-Fat was fun to watch as Ken "The Magic Hand" and Nicholas Tse did pretty well as his protege Cool. Chapman To was his usual goofy self that I'm used to seeing in most of his films. Highlight action scenes come from Philip Ng and Max Zhang (they even have some decent fistacuffs against each other). The mid-credit sequence just made me bust out laughing.

 

From Vegas to Macau II (Wong Jing, 2015) - I didn't think this was as good as the first, but does have some key moments. It was interesting to see Chow Yun-Fat and Nick Cheung together. Imagine if Stephen Chow and Andy Lau had been there, then it would have been the Wong Jing Gambling Dynasty there. The plot was a little farfatched IMO but one of my favorite moments was a hilarious Muay Thai fight between Chow and Ken Low, and the beginning where Eric Tsang plays a character named "Donnie Yen". Also was great seeing David Chiang on the screen again as Chow's old childhood chum. Again, the mid-credit sequence was hilarious. Now am looking forward to next year's From Vegas to Macau III, where we see Chow and Andy Lau together on screen again :)

Edited by AlbertV

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This is a rewrite of something I wrote several years ago.  I had rewatched both of these recently.
 
Haunted Spooks (1920: Alfred J. Goulding, Hal Roach) ***½/****
The Haunted House (1921: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton) ****/****

I thought I would compare and contrast two famous silent shorts on the same basic theme: the fake haunted house which is itself an offshoot of the “old dark house” theme. In Haunted Spooks we have an Uncle (Wallace Howe) trying to trick a couple, played by Harold Lloyd and his future wife Mildred Davis, out of their inheritance. They are supposed to live in the house for at least a year, but if they fail in this her Uncle gets the inheritance. To do this he decides to create a haunted house. In The Haunted House we have the more familiar variation of this theme of crooks establishing a haunted house to get away with their nefarious deeds (several Scooby Doo episodes, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken). Here we have local crooks led by Keaton-villain Joe Roberts who created an elaborate haunted house to cover up his counterfeiting scheme. Buster Keaton is the bungling bank clerk who happens upon this scheme.

Harold Lloyd to me is the most underrated silent comedian now next to Charley Chase, though at the time he was with Charles Chaplin the most popular comedians of his era. Here he plays his typical The Boy character, but with a small twisted twist. After a snubbed love affair he decides to commit suicide (much like Keaton would do in Hard Luck a year later and much like he would do a year later in Never Weaken), which he is completely inept at. Luckily he runs into a lawyer (or the lawyer almost runs into him) who is looking for someone for The Girl to marry. He has no issue with this and gives up his current quest for The End sans Burt Reynolds.

There is some controversy as to how racist Haunted Spooks is. While the portrayal of the blacks is stereotypical in the aspect of them being scared by ghosts, the fact is everyone else besides the Uncle as well. However, the use of intertitles in its characterized drawings of blacks is the most racist aspect about the film and the most difficult to defend.

However, the most known fact about the film is that this is the movie where Lloyd lost a thumb, a finger, was blinded for a period of time by a prop bomb that exploded in his face. After this he wore a hand prosthesis for most (probably all) of his work including this film.  If you are not looking for it, it is easy to miss his fake hand.  All close-ups later on are done with body hand doubles (reminds me of how James Doohan’s hands were often doubled in Star Trek close-ups because of a missing finger he lost in WWII.)
 
While in The Haunted Spooks the house is more of the end of a punchline since its presence is at the end of the short, the house in The Haunted House is one of the best visual gag themed films of its time. It is an elaborate built, well thought out haunted house. Both films are disjointed in storyline, but neither is hurt by this. It seems like a natural progression within the plot both leading up to the haunted house. However, their approach with it is different and helps make the difference between a good film versus a great film. So much thought is given into the gags of The Haunted House.

Buster Keaton is one of my favorite comedians, so I am a bit biased. But his popularity had endured because his comedy is brilliant. He is appreciated more by critics now than he ever has during his lifetime and like Chaplin the resurgence started near the 1960s and has not stopped since.    But I am a Harold Lloyd fan as well.  It helps that their films are so much easier to get a hold of in the States and are consistently not that difficult to get a hold of, including several releases from Criterion on both Chaplin and Lloyd while Kino has put out Buster Keaton’s silent and some rare sound films like the Educational shorts (which for the most part I like and prefer them to the Columbia shorts he would do soon after.) I have the R1 New Line Home Video The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection which unfortunately is OOP, while Criterion has the rights and are slowly releasing the films and some of the shorts with additional new extras.

Here is an interesting blog entry on the acting differences between “the big three” while focusing on Harold Lloyd. The reason I was searching this was to try to describe the difference between the acting styles of the two. He correct in that Keaton would elongate scenes if the comedy was there where Lloyd is more plot oriented working off of what comes his way. He believes that this is because of Keaton’s vaudevillian background and Lloyd’s strictly movie background. While Keaton was the more physical of the two, Lloyd had no issue with doing stunts as well. Lloyd was the outwardly more emotional of the two (this is not saying much since Keaton was known as the stoneface – though he did act through the eyes) and often took a more optimistic approach that Keaton.  One thing he is not quite right on is that Keaton’s deadpan demeanor is not as apparent in the Roscoe Arbuckle shorts.  You can see him cry, laugh and a whole gamut of emotions.

Roger Ebert on Safety Last
Roger Ebert on The Films of Buster Keaton

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Not really a marathon, but I decided to get into the Halloween spirit with some Hong Kong horror films:

 

Wicked Wife (1981) - A talky Taiwanese mystery/martial arts film with a few suggested horror elements that are often hinted at, but don't really come into play until the last couple of minutes. The assistant of the local philanthropist (Leung Gau-Suen) is ordered to investigate the deaths of three men mauled by tigers on the same night. His investigation takes him to a cat-house run by Miss Red (Lu Sen-Len), a beauty who likes to seduce men by the light of the full moon, even though said full moon has a rather strange effect on her psychosis. Despite the fact that our hero dismisses Miss Red as a slut and a pimp, he finds himself slowly drawn to her, much to the dismay of his boss's daughter. Then a bunch of twists occur in that we learn that the philanthropist is actually a murderous sorcerer, Miss Red and the "daughter" are long-lost sisters, the "daughter" is our hero's long-lost fiancée, and the "daughter" is the one responsible for the tiger deaths. There are several decent kung fu fights involving acrobatics and bullwhips, plus a few mildy grisly deaths by centípede, plus a scene where a character vomits live centípedes near the end. The upbeat traditional music ruins what mood there is. An okay film in the end.

 

The Beasts (1980) - This would be the Hong Kong amalgamation of I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House on the Left. Five Hong Kong twenty-somethings (a couple, a guy and his sister, and a mutual friend who wants to get into the sister's panties) go camping in a remote village in the sticks. The opening scene showed us five rather ugly Young men killing a pig in the wild, so we know that the camping trip is not that good of idea. Further alarms start blaring when the owner of the local store hides his phone when the sister asks him to use it to let her father know that they arrived. The sister is eventually raped by the five youthful hicks and the brother is killed shortly thereafter. The assault has left the girl so psychologically damaged that she's unable to identify the men as her attackers, which ends with them getting off scot-free.

 

Or so they think. You see, the brother/sister pair's father is played by Chen Sing, a powerful, muscular fellow who made a name for himself in the 1970s as playing the villain in numerous kung fu films. He was the máster of the tiger style, which made him so much more brutal to behold when he was at his prime. And while Chen Sing doesn't play a tiger claw máster here, his character is a woodworker, which will give him an extra layer of creativity when he heads up to the village to exact revenge against the inbred miscreants.

 

I haven't seen any of the films that inspired this movie, so I can't make a fair comparison. The titular "beasts" are a rather scary, amoral bunch who seem to have nothing going for them but to rob, rape and kill. Even when the pretty boy of the bunch successfully picks up a girl at the local bar for consensual sex, it's not long before his friends have her tied up, drawing straws to determine who'll be the first to gang rape her. At no point do you feel sympathy for them, with the exception to the fat, intellectually-challenged member of the bunch, who tags along simply because he has nothing else to do. And yet we spend nearly the entire movie with them, with Chen Sing silently stalking them like a good guy Jason Voorhies. Even then Chen is on their home turf, which ultimately makes him even matched with them, especially once they catch on to his presence.

 

The film is brutal, although I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of Money for gore effects, since a lot of the violence is implied rather than explicitly shown. The best death occurs when a character steps into a trap where the rope ties around his ankle and leaves him dangling upside-down from a tree branch. The rope is then cut and the poor sucker falls head first into a box filled with nails. The guy's friends stare in horror as the victim screams for them to just kill him and put him out of his misery. My main caveat with the movie is that the whole bit with the store owner encouraging these attacks doesn't get much development. I think it was his reaction to the influx of campers coming to his village and leaving their trash strewn about, but he never gets found out or any comeuppance. In fact the film ends with a new bunch of yokel youth staring lustfully at some arriving campers.

Despite this film's content, it was positively tame compared to:

 

The Untold Story (1993) - This was the most appalling and disgusting film that I've personally ever seen. I squirmed and turned away several times during the movie and had to use all of my willpower to make it to the end, which itself was defined by a 15-minute cinematic endurance test that is definitely not for most Western viewers, or the faint of heart in general.

 

The premise is simple: police discover a bag full of body parts on a beach in Macau. Their investigation takes them to a restaurant owned by a creepy-looking fellow named Wong (Anthony Wong, in an award-winning performance). We know Wong is a psychotic killer, but the police don't. But as their investigation reveals that Wong was lying when he said that the former owners of the restaurant sold him the place and then emigrated, Wong is brought in as the chief suspect in the family's murder. Since he won't confess, the cops decide to break every human rights ordinance in existence to get him to talk, including locking him in a cell with patriarch's incarcerated brother (cameo by Shing Fui-On, the villain in The Killer). And when Wong finally does break down, oh dear lord...

So yeah, we have graphic scenes of dismemberment, rape and sexual torture, more "traditional" torture, vicious beatings, a suicide attempt that made me especially queazy and the fact that the film doesn't spare us the horror of showing cute little CHILDREN get hacked to death with a meat cleaver. It was really, REALLY unpleasant. I think this ranks up there with what El Santo said of Cannibal Holocaust, in which people who actually take pleasure in watching this should probably seek out some professional help.

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Good reviews Doc, The Beasts has me intrigued for the presence of Chen Sing getting revenge by doing a Paul Kersey in Hong Kong. I don't think this film has ever been released in the U.K?.

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Good reviews Doc, The Beasts has me intrigued for the presence of Chen Sing getting revenge by doing a Paul Kersey in Hong Kong. I don't think this film has ever been released in the U.K?.

Not sure. It's available on Youtube.

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A little recap of what I saw these past few months. Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (USA), The Transporter: Legacy (France/China), Ant-Man (USA) and Everest (UK/USA/Iceland) I have already discussed in respective threads (one was decent entertainment, the second a steaming pile of crap, and the last two brilliant though in different ways).

 

La Sapienza (Italy/France, 2014)

Caught this one about 6 months ago, don't think I mentionned it.

This Eugène Green film deals with a French architect named Alexandre and his wife Alienor (whose relation isn't going that well) going on a trip to Italy as Alexandre is planning to work on his book about 17th Century Baroque architect Francesco Borromini (who designed a Roman church named Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, hence the title of the film). While in Stresa, they meet two young people, a student in architecture and his sister who seems to have a strange illness as she suddenly gets very weak and needs a lot of rest. Alexandre and his new student travel around Italy (notably Turin and Rome) while Alienor stays with the young girl. 

 

This is a rather strange picture. The way people act and talk reminded me of the forced unnatural way people act in Paul Vecchiali's White Nights on the Pier that I had seen earlier this year (though while you get used to it in the latter, La Sapienza constantly has a bit of awkwardness due to this). The cinematography is a bit strange too as you often get wide angle shots of the person's face whenever somebody's talking - this is especially true in the little scene that sees the director's cameo as a Chaldean who talks to the wife one night by Lake Maggiore.

The movie develops a two-arc structure as we switch back and forth between Alexandre and the brother visiting constructions by Borromini (including a very instructive narration from Alexandre about Borromini and his clash with Bernini) and Alienor and the sister. This back and forth structure eventually brings up development as we find out about problems the couple have had.

 

Overall, it's not too bad. Maybe not for everybody though.

 

 

Fant4stic (USA)

The Fox reboot of the movie series based on the first major Marvel superheroes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1961. This has little to do with the original backstory, as it involves dimension jumping and the titular characters (as well as Dr. Doom) becoming what they are due to some freak incidents in the parallel universe. This was IMO a bigger problem than the controversial casting of a black guy as Johnny Storm AKA The Torch (though I found he did okay - I enjoyed him much more than Chris Evans whom I found obnoxious, but Evans made up by being great as Captain America in the MCU so no hard feelings). 

The movie can be cut into 3 parts: childhood of Richards and Grimm, them working for a big company (led by Mr. Storm who adopted a girl from Eastern Europe, hence why Sue is still a blonde when her brother is black) and the Fantastic Four being freaks under army control. The childhood part is great, reminded me of Super 8 (though Richards should probably be in a school for gifted kids). The second part drags a bit before leading to the freak accident that turns Richards, Grimm and the Storms into superpowered beings. It introduces Doom, who is essentially a nutcase and also seems to have a crush on Sue (which leads to both his involvment with the team and to a rivalry with Richards - cause an experiment gone wrong would definitely not work with the reimagined version, you know). Quite NOT what Dr. Doom should be like, which would rather be a genius of high intellect who is capable of building robots, who mastered time travel and who ends ruling a country (which gives him diplomatic immunity and thus makes him pretty much unstoppable) - hell, there's even a storyline where he defeats EVERY superhero of the Marvel Universe and becomes ruler of the world (which somehow leads to world peace and everybody being better off). Here, he's a very stereotypical evil guy (you know, the anarchist/anti-authority guy who has billions of computers and does hacking and shit - not sure they felt necessary to mention the fact he's still from Latveria, seems as pointless as the bulls**t Mandarin from Iron Man 3) who ends up wanting to destroy our world. And the backstory of his armor is lame too.

If you were to have the FF fighting a stereotypical power-hungry bad guy who inhabitates a different dimension, better use Annihilus. He would have worked great IMO, especially since it seems this dimension they explored is kinda the Negative Zone.

The third part sees Thing and Torch being used by the army in combat, which they somehow are okay with... Richards runs away to try and figure out a solution, only to end up captured (by his own friends). Meanwhile, Doom is brought back to our world and tries to destroy it (this has visuals reminiscent of the ending of Thor: The Dark World with the tornado crossing worlds). This ends in the parallel world (see why I think Annihilus would have been better as the villain ?) and the FF get their own base (though they do NOT get the Baxter Building, guess it was here just for a cameo as the place where Mr. Storm's company was based) and a final pun so that they get their name.

 

Not as bad as many said it was (I tolerated it much better than I did the 2005 film), but it's clearly a bit weak in its rhythm. The first part drags at points and the conclusion seems rushed (some scenes might have been deleted, which sounds likely seeing how short this is for a superhero film). I think more time should have been devoted to the FF learning to work together or to get used to their powers. And also, they definitely should have given the Thing some pants. He definitely looks weird without them. 

 

 

Youth (Italy/France/Switzerland/UK)

Paolo Sorrentino (winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2014 with his previous work La Grande Bellezza AKA The Great Beauty) returns this year with this production and its Oscar-winning cast. Mchael Caine and Harvey Keitel star as Fred (a retired composer and conductor) and Mck (a movie maker) who are on vacation in a Swiss hotel. Surrounding them are Fred's daughter, Mick's film-crew and a bunch of other characters like the staff, a struggling actor remembered mainly for playing a robot (and who is now looking for inspiration, which leads to a radical transformation as he wonders about his next role), a child trying to play one of Fred's pieces (his most famous)... The two keep talking about how much they pissed in the morning, bet on whether a couple is going to talk to each other and discuss life, especially their pasts as they realize time is flying but nobody else seems concerned.

 

This one is enjoyable thanks to comedy (Fred and Mick have a lot of very funny moments, especially involving the couple they watch), colorful characters (Jane Fonda has a little appearance as an actress and her long speech to Mick about his new films only tarnishing his legacy as a once great director is definitely reminiscent of critics often bashing new efforts by some directors - or of directors who keep making more and more bad movies when they once were great) and a very beautiful cinematography (the shots have great composition).

However, the rhythm isn't that great. At times you have a lot happening and dialogues fly, but the movie will then slow down and even drag at points. My guess is that it's done in order to reflect the passing of time, with fun moments happening and passing too fast while at other points, time seems slow and doesn't pass. There are a few plotpoints that are brought back every now and then (the violin player, the actor, Mick's film and that guy from Britain who wants Fred to conduct for a royal ceremony) and these are a good reason to stick around since it leads to developing the characters and they often end better (or not).

 

Overall, I say go for it. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel's chemistery and some side-characters are great. I nearly failed to mention, but Fred's daughter (played by Rachel Weisz) also has nice moments and her subplot isn't too bad. 

 

 

Maze Runner: the Scorch Trials (USA)

This sequel (to a movie I haven't seen) is a giant piece of WTF. It goes from a prison film to a post-apocalyptic to a zombie to a spy film with all the clichees. Hell, the first time they meet zombies is when they are in what is revealed to be a shopping mall, one of the guys is infected (though they should be immune) and later on feels like something is trying to burst out of his stomach, there's a traitor in the group...

Honestly, except for the WTF factor (lots of moments that make you go facepalm or "WTF is going on", and from the very beginning on) and the references to other (and better) movies you could make (Dawn of the Dead and Alien came to mind, hell I think I even managed to think of the Mad Max films at a point and somebody asking what happened when they reach a city in ruines made me want to answer "Transformers 3" - and the fact EVERYBODY knows who this Thomas dude is reminded me of Harry Potter where everybody knows of Harry, but at least it seems kinda legit), this is one you can clearly skip. It seems to try to develop the universe and to bring in some conflict. Should they stay with that organization with a name that kinda gives away they're baddies - would you trust people working for something called WCKD to begin with ?! - and be treated like cattle you milk till death but helping mankind along the way or should they fight for their life and let the rest of the world die ? Personally, I don't give a f**k. The first one didn't grab me (much like Divergente, the trailer for it put me off), the trailer for this seemed good so I fell for it - but it was really poor (though, on a bright note it's still better than The Transporter: Legacy). I'll probably skip the third one, especially seeing it's to be in two parts (cause... Last book of the series). Guess I must be too old for this kind of stuff.

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The Ghost Breakers (1940: George Marshall) ***/****:

This is the second pairing of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard with the previously reviewed by me The Cat and the Canary being the first. In between these two pictures Bob had starred in the first “Road To” film. It is safe to say his popularity was certainly rising in the cinematic world. Here he plays Lawrence L. Lawrence, named so because his parents were lazy (reminds me of the Fletch F. Fletch joke in the Fletch film), a radio gossip announcer who has recently stated some rather embarrassing information of a certain gangster and has made himself persona non grata and possibly persona non viva. To make matters worse he thinks he accidently killed a man (Anthony Quinn who was also in the first “Road To” film). Mary Carter (Goddard) has recently inherited an “old dark house” in Cuba, but has recently has been threatened not to go there, offered money to sell it and been warned of the ghosts that haunt that estate. Of course she goes anyway with a certain stowaway hidden in her trunk and his servant Alex (Willie Best: High Sierra) to ultimately visit a haunted castle that not only has corpses, ghosts, some unknown killer, but a zombie as well (random recommendation: 1943’s I Walked with a Zombie).  Also Anthony Quinn seems to reappear like Chow Yun-fat in A Better Tomorrow II.

Willie Best’s performance is quite good. While his position is a stereotypical one as the valet, how he is used is not. His repartee with Bob Hope is reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit with Will Rogers in Judge Priest though less vitriolic and with Best usually getting the best of him. Bob Hope is his usual solid self-full of wisecracks, topical humor and, well he’s playing himself. Though this is a more self-assured Bob Hope then I am normally used to seeing.  He ventures in, often making his usual scaredy-cat jokes, and is often quite brave to the possible determinant of himself. While the romance seemed a little forced, the film is still fun with the best part being the “haunted castle” last act with a great deux ex machina. This should be of special interest to those who like comedic horror and/or Bob Hope from this time period. 

The extras on this disc from the set are the same as the standalone R1 release. You get stills, a trailer, a short of him entertaining the troops (which I’m pretty sure has been released on other Bob Hope movies), a cut release of Command Performance from 1944 and a short film "Hollywood Victory Caravan."

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Afternoon at the theater, saw two films.

 

Irrational Man (USA, 2015)

Seems to be a tradition by now that Woody Allen has a new film released each year. Following an anthology comedy set in Italy (1), a story about a socialite widow from NY ending up living with her lower middle class sister in San Francisco following her husband's death (2) and his period piece set in the South of France about fake magicians (3), Woody Allen now brings us a story about a philosophy professor named Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) who is to teach in a Summer University in Rhode Island. The tormented fellow will eventually end in a couple of love triangles as he maintains affairs with both a colleague named Rita who in a unhappy marriage (this character - played by Parker Posey - is more secondary and her husband is barely in the film) and one of his student named Jill (played by Emma Stone) who already has a boyfriend named Roy, as well as in a murder case in the second half of the film.

 

Where to start with this one ? I wasn't sold on the rather weak French trailer, but ultimately it's GREAT. Joaquin Phoenix is very impressive as a self-destructive, alcoholic professor who becomes a lively person following a strange epiphany. His character is complex, you're never sure whether to sympathize or not with him, as in spite of his many demons, he's also obviously brilliant as proven with how smart he is and how elaborate his lessons seem to be (you get a lot of philosophy talk in the first third). But the real star here for me was Emma Stone. Her character is actually the most important and the best developped overall. Writing a young girl torn between her boyfriend and another older guy could have easily torn into a train wreck of a character, but not here. You can feel her torment, her doubts. She knows what she does isn't right, she realizes her mistakes and she's ultimately very human but also kind of mature. A very strong female lead if you ask me, plus I'd be lying if I said I didn't find Emma Stone very cute. 

The two characters get a great development from their narrations - you have regular pieces of narration by either of them and these aren't mere exposition, but really contribute to the characters' development. The narrations even accentuate the suspense by foreshadowing bad stuff is about to occur. 

And speaking of suspense, while the early part of the film is really solid with Abe arriving, his relation with the other teacher and later with Jill is interesting and provides some good scenes (some are pretty intense), the movie gets even better when the murder case is brought in because the movie goes Hitchcockian. Yup, the way the murder-related events are handled is top-notch. and coming from someone who loves the tension Hitchcock could make you feel in his films, that tells you you're in for some great stuff. I wish I could say more, but the less you know, the better. Hell, I was barely aware there was a murder case in this (except for a couple of reviews I read), so maybe I already said too much.

 

Footnotes:

(1) To Rome with Love (2012) was a pretty funny movie that had 4 different storylines all meshed together in one movie, so it would jump a bit randomly between the various arcs. My favorite was the one where Woody Allen himself appeared playing a stage director whose rather strange ideas never really worked well and who wants to do something with her daughter's fiancee's father and his great singing skills - only he can sing only in the shower. The other stories involved a guy whose girlfriend gets lost in the city and who passes a call-girl (who showed up to the wrong room) as her at a party with many socialites, another (that I really like) sees a middle-class worker played by Roberto Benigni who keeps ranting about stuff in vain becoming a media sensation as everyone wants to know what he thinks (including about a lot of insignificant stuff). I don't really remember the last storyline, guess it must have been bland or forgettabl. But two are downright hilarious (though the one with the prostitute can be great for the people who like classic mistake-/misunderstanding-based comedy, which I'm not a fan of).

(2) Blue Jasmine (2013) I didn't enjoy as much as TRwL, though I've considered purchasing the DVD just for Cate Blanchett's great performance (I've let it pass a few times but will probably come to it, while I don't see myself purchasing TRwL anytime soon - guess I must have changed my mind, or it has a better re-watch value). I realize thinking back that I remember more about it than I thought, notably her bad relations with her sister's husband, issues with her late husband's son and also the way it all ended for her husband. Beside Cate Blanchett's performance though, nothing much comes back to mind.

(3) Magic in the Moonlight (2014) is one I haven't seen, as the trailer wasn't that engaging and I read a lot of bad reviews for this one. It marks the first Woody Allen/Emma Stone collaboration though.

 

Sangue del mio Sangue AKA Blood of my Blood (Italy, 2015)

Italian director Marco Bellocchio offers us a strange movie that was based on some ideas he had. The theater I saw this one at offered a little document containing various informations on the movie, notably quotes from the director explaining a bit on the film.

Initially, the film was meant to deal with a true story that happened in the 17th Century in a covent in the town of Bobbio where a nun was sentenced for witchcraft and imprisonned within brick walls. But later on, Bellocchio decided to throw in a modern-day storyline dealing with current social issues such as frauds (it seems next to everyone in the village is involved as people claim to be disabled to get pensions, some don't pay taxes like they should...) and the way progress makes them harder as small towns are no longer isolated to the point local authorities can be corrupted without notice, the state selling out monuments to foreigners... The main link is the fact that a Count (who is a big part in the fraud things) lives recluded in the former covent/prison and that some Russian millionaire wants to buy the old prison to turn it into something else that would be profitable to him.

 

While this could sound as schizophrenic as a cut-and-splice Godfrey Ho movie (the switch between 17th and 21st Century is as unexpected as the changes in a Godfrey Ho flick BTW and there is next to nothing in common between the two parts either) (1), the movie is very solid nonetheless. The storyline with the witch involves a former soldier coming to the covent to get his brother's name cleared as he was a monk who killed himself and he is thus not given a proper Christian burial. The only way for this to happen is to prove the nun he was having an affair with acted on behalf of Satan and that he was thus cursed by her - making her a wtich. The trials involve various forms of torture that are to prove she's a witch (including one involving water (2)), but while it seems she isn't, she actually bewitched the brother too, making him insecure and causing him to act strange (notably getting horny for the two very religious sisters at whose he stays, leading to the implication he ended sleeping with them). The movie, after her being sentenced for witchcraft, switches to current days and this part can be linked to the first one in some aspects, notably actors seen in the historical part returning in similar roles or simply for cameos in the modern part. In the last few minutes, the movie closes the historical section out of nowhere (giving us an ending to the witchcraft arc as she is removed from her prison) and later switches to a kind of conclusion to the modern day part. It may be noted that one actor is very preeminently featured in the modern part and then appears as a new previously unseen character in the historical section, giving a sort of link between the two.

 

If this description (that is light on spoiler, except for the fact the nun is sentenced for witchcraft, but the summary gives it away too) sounds really strange and doesn't seem to add up to much in the end, let me tell you that the movie got me confused too. However, the acting is solid, I enjoyed the more developped characters (the soldier and the Count mainly, though I guess I should mention there's also a blind nun (3)) the cinematography is very nice (little nods like the two parts opening in the same way, the actors having similar roles...), the witchcraft storyline very well done and the soundtrack - made up essentially of choir music - is very nice and fitting (yeah, playing Heavy Metal for a movie that is set mainly in a covent or linked to nuns and religious people wouldn't be fitting, heh ? Wait, because there actually IS an Heavy Metal song in this film - I saw James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich mentionned in the credits (4)) and the movie is very well shot, the shots are made in very emotional ways - you feel for those characters, like when the nun is pretty much tortured into admitting she's a witch or the melancholy and despair of our lead thinking back of his deceased brother.

 

Some notes on points that may raise questions (I'm doing this on a slightly less serious tone, especially for (2) and (3)):

(1) yup, it really felt (to me at least) like a Godfrey Ho movie - that is to say done much better, without Ninjas or exploitative content, but still as confusing since the various parts aren't that well connected. Think "Godfrey Ho going artsy".

(2) yup, a part of the trial involves the nun being thrown into a river and if she floats, she's a witch. I guess Sir Bedevere would approve. (more seriously, she's actually tied up with chains so her floating would indeed qualify as witchcraft. I guess.)

(3) yup, there's an old blind nun. But she's rather quite and doesn't throw flying contraptions of death around (she seems like a head of the place actually)

(4) yup, there is a freaking Metallica song in this movie, and it's pretty much the end credits song (a snippet can be heard a couple of times within the film). :eek: Here is the version used:

 

 

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Revisited Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry (1955).

Would love to be able to go back to Vermont in the 50s where there was no cell phones, internet, Starbucks, and the rat race.

This film captures time in a bottle before so-called "progress."

 

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Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 - Bottom line if you liked the first one, you'll like the second one. This is pretty much a one-time watch for me, like the original.

 

The Divergent Series: Insurgent - I haven't read the books, but saw the first movie, so I thought I'd see the second and it's a pretty good lead up into the upcoming third film, Allegiant. Naomi Watts makes a great addition as Four's estrange mother and Kate Winslet once again shows she can play a villain in her role of the city leader. 

 

 

 

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I continue in my way to rewatch Milkyway Image films and I decided on:

 

Breaking News (2004, Johnnie To) - Decent actioner where media play a big role, but this subplot wasn't handled good. All charecters are uninteresting and some of their decisions seemed forced only for purpose of story moving forward. Even action is in some places not well choreographed, which is unusual for To.

 

Sparrow (2008, Johnnie To) - Love letter to Hong Kong. It's pretty obvious that style of this film is inspired by early 60's italian/french films. It may look empty storywise at first, but as I mentioned it's all about the style. When I started watching To's films I noticed that music is always somehow "different" and doesn't sit well into the picture. But as I watched more of them I really started to like it. In this case, music is great and beautiful. Really light-hearted/light-toned and "peaceful" To.

 

Drug War (2012, Johnnie To) - I noticed that some people wasn't happy with fact that Johnnie To did film in mainland China. They say that chinese censhorship and rules make film predictable and plot suffers because of that. I disagree. Others can be limited and tied, but To uses censhorship in his benefit and bends and builds story around it greatly. Cold, focused, no toying around, yet you can clearly feel To's style (like in his more serious films like Election). Sun Honglei is awesome as police captain. In fact, all characters are good, even though we know nothing or very little about them. I like these dedicated characters which are pros at what are they doing. Great film.

 

+

 

Se7en (1995, David Fincher, rewatch) - Revisting this classic after many years felt good. This is one of those films where impact after seeing it for the first time is pretty strong. When I watched it again I already knew what to expect and nothing suprised me, but it's still solid depressing story.

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The Duff - No, this is not about the Duff Guy from The Simpsons. This is a high school movie about a cult film fanatic and science geek whose best friends are very popular. At a party, her former childhood friend and neighbor turned football captain tells her she is a "DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). She flips out, breaks it off with her best friends and then decides she needs to find a way to be her own person and gets help from neighbor/football captain when he is failing science. 

 

I liked it for what it was. Mae Whitman (known for her role in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and is more known as the voice of Tinkerbell in the Disney Fairies films) does well for a lead role debut. Robbie Amell (Formerly one-half of DC's Firestorm) is funny at times as the male lead role. Bella Thorne truly plays pure evil as the "most popular girl" in school and practical cyberbully while Ken Jeong plays it more straight as Whitman's favorite teacher. The gag reel is a hoot though, I couldn't stop laughing when it came to Jeong and comedian Chris Wylde, who plays the science teacher. 

 

Edited by AlbertV

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