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Recent Viewings, Part 2

Started by Rev. Powell, February 15, 2020, 10:36:26 PM

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"Wonder Woman" (2017)
Diana, daughter of the queen of the Amazons, is forced to enter into Man's world when a wounded WWI pilot crash-lands on Paradise Island and draws her into the battle to stop a German super weapon.
Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as the super powered, butt kickin' warrior woman in this epic period piece/action flick that was one of the few home runs in the mostly-subpar series of DC Universe films. Unfortunately, all of the goodwill that was built up with this film was squandered by the disappointing sequel, "Wonder Woman 1984."
Hey, HEY, kids! Check out my way-cool Music and Movie Review blog on HubPages!


I tried to watch FEAR AND DESIRE, the Kubrick debut that has been recently debated on here, but the old disk was scratched - which must be a sign that I need to get that new "Directors Cut" and watch it instead! Thus I defaulted to Kubrick's second feature, a 65-minute noir that offers little or nothing new in the plot department but a whole heck of a lot of fresh visual storytelling.

So there's a boxer who needs to win his next fight or he's donezo, and he's in love w/ a call girl whose pimp is a sadistic jerk, and - well why bother, you've seen and heard it all before. However, Kubrick trots out a parade of compositions and staging ideas that nobody was using in 1955, and as a result it's easy to see how he could quickly graduate from this micro-budgeted indie to a slicker and more expensive star-studded noir like THE KILLERS in about a year and then to working w/ Kirk Douglas in PATHS OF GLORY in 2 or 3 and then having a studio hand him twelve million dollars in 1960. If I was a studio head and I saw KILLER'S KISS in 1955 I'd definitely give this guy a job.

The dialogue is okay (notwithstanding the voice over, which sucks) and the acting (by folks I've never heard of) is strong enough to do the job. The price of admission is recouped entirely by the final 15 minutes alone, which tracks a four-man foot chase over some awesome NYC rooftops before it culminates in a brutal axe-on-spearhook battle (shades of SPARTACUS!) in a warehouse full of mannequins (shades of... HOLY MOUNTAIN?!). Awesome way to end a movie.

Kubrick's methodical nature is apparent from many scenes, though it's more interesting to watch Kubrick in rare improvisational mode, shooting crowd scenes and hand held on-the-streets NY footage that must've either driven him mad or accessed something unusual in the perfectionist director of BARRY LYNDON. Actually my fav moment in this whole film is an impromptu shot of two potted shriners just boogeying down a crowded sidewalk...

Rev. Powell

FINIS HOMINIS (THE END OF MAN) (1971): Jose Mojica Marins puts aside his Coffin Joe character to play Finis Hominis, a mysterious mystic who emerges naked from the sea one day and performs miracles around Brazil. A series of vignettes/parables (and clumsy satires) without much ongoing plot, this one is really just a curiosity, interesting primarily for Marins' 180-degree turn from his deliciously evil Coffin Joe character; anyone unfamiliar with the previous films will likely find this one a bit of a slog. 2.5/5.
I'll take you places the hand of man has not yet set foot...


OLDBOY (2013):
The expansive comments on Spike Lee I made during my recent review of DA 5 BLOODS (2020) neglected to recall and acknowledge a specific subgenre of the Lee catalogue that may be somewhat immune to the larger faults of Lee that I previously identified: that being, the work-for-hire Joints. (Hey, the guy's directed a lotta' movies...) THE TWENTY-FIFTH HOUR was well-acted and decently written but just too damn long (like many of Lee's films) but I remember thinking THE INSIDE MAN was a cracklin' good time for about 110 of its 135 minutes, so - could I find recent evidence besides that Lee can direct a sturdy and effective thriller w/o getting bogged down in his typical longueurs? Ah yes, he curiously directed the American remake of OLDBOY!

Caveat: I wasn't too hot on the original OLDBOY (yes, I was the one!) so take my two cents w/ a pinch of sodium. Come to think of it, I found Chan-Wook Park's OLDBOY test-run SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE to be just about as infuriatingly blase towards pacing, structure, suspense, and audience engagement as the worst Lee films! So maybe Lee was a natural choice for an OLDBOY remake... which turns out to be an improvement on the original in some regards and unsurprisingly inferior in others.

Credit to Lee: he delivers a two hour product, which is exactly the length of Park's original. He adds bits that were probably unnecessary but he also picks up the pace in some other spots. Of course Lee's not as handy w/ the impressive action sequences (primarily the famous corridor fight) but - and again, this may be anathema to many fans of Korean cinema - Lee gets a major upgrade from Josh Brolin, not to mention Elizabeth Olsen, Sam Jackson, Michael Imperioli, and Sharlto Copley. I observed the the original film's leads w/ only cool curiosity. Here though I felt really invested in Brolin and Olsen, and I detested Copley fiercely. As a result, I got into nu-OLDBOY much more viscerally than I did w/ O.G. OLDBOY.

As a result of that, however, I will say I found the final twist even more academic and anti-climactic than I had previously. SPOILERS of sorts: If I was Josh Brolin, I have to say I would easily withhold any satisfaction from Copley - I'd probably laugh in his face or just chuckle and shrug, then remind him it was high time he started eating his gun... and under no circumstances would I spend millions of dollars in diamonds to lock myself back up in Jackson's torture hotel, thereby keeping myself away from that sweet, sweet Elizabeth Olsen. Uh uh. Sorry, social mores.  :lookingup:

But besides that, good job, Lee. Could you exercise this much discipline when you're directing a project that presumably you care about?




Ok- I'll try to explain this. I'll try. Our story starts out with a woman violently murdered in an ally by some greasy punks. Then this guy shows up-

- and his even creepier side-kick. A creepy girl shows up, and a gorilla, and who the f**k knows what's going on.
oh- the title- RAT PHINK A BOO BOO was supposed to read RAT PHINK AND BOO BOO, but they f**ked it up.
Supernatural?...perhaps. Baloney?...Perhaps not!" Bela Lugosi-the BLACK CAT (1934)
Interviewer-"Does Dracula ever end for you?
Lugosi-"No. Dracula-never ends."
Slobber, Drool, Drip!


VIKING WOLF (2022) - When a teenaged girl is found brutally torn apart in the woods after being dragged away from a party in Norway, questions abound. Was it an animal?  A human attacker? Or something in between?
This was a fairly by-the-numbers werewolf flick; enjoyable but not much more.  The CGI wolf was just badly enough done to be less menacing than laughable; some of the acting was OK, decent gore effects.  3.5/5
"I shall smite you in the nostrils with a rod of iron, and wax your spleen with Efferdent!!"


Quote from: RCMerchant on July 08, 2024, 07:31:18 PMRAT PHINK A BOO BOO (1966)
oh- the title- RAT PHINK A BOO BOO was supposed to read RAT PHINK AND BOO BOO, but they f**ked it up.

1.) I unironically love this stoopid movie.
2.) I've heard two versions of the story of the title. The one you mention is the commonly repeated legend. Ray Dennis Steckler claimed in an interview once that the character's name was always supposed to be "Rat Pfink" (not "Phink" or "Fink") because if they called him "Rat Fink" then Ed "Big Daddy" Roth could've sued them. He intended to title it "...AND BOO BOO" but his toddler daughter w/ wife and co-star Carolyn Brandt would get excited when they were preparing to film and dance around chanting "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo!" So that title stuck just 'cause it amused him and Brandt. MONSTER A GO GO was a surprise hit the previous year, so why not RAT PFINK A BOO BOO?

When critical response was....... unkind, shall we say... Steckler claims he leaned into it and made up the story of the lab error just to make the movie appear more comically inept. I don't know which version is actually true but I find the story from the interview more entertaining...

Rev. Powell

WHEN THE GODS FALL ASLEEP (1972): Jose Mojica Marins returns again as the saintly Finis Hominis: this time he intervenes at a gang fight, a Candombl├ę sacrifice, a jungle gypsy wife-swapping party, and a sleazy brothel. This one may be even stranger than its immediate predecessor, with even more exploitation elements (including a legitimately disturbing pagan ritual involving killing and drinking the blood of live chickens) and even stiffer acting abutting Finis' generic messianic pronouncements. 2.5
I'll take you places the hand of man has not yet set foot...


CLOWN MOTEL: SPIRITS ARISE (2019) - In the early 1900's, a settlement of clowns who were mining for gold were all murdered by a rival family of gold prospectors.  Why were the clowns mining for gold?  Why didn't they take off their clown makeup?  Who knows?
Now it's 100 years later, and a group of guys who do ghost hunting videos and a group of girls coming home from a bachelorette party get lost in a mysterious sandstorm and wind up stranded at the Clown Motel - where of course a group of angry, undead clowns want to kill them all to get revenge for the mass murder the hapless travelers had nothing to do with. Yeah, it makes about as much sense as it sounds like. WEIRD movie.  So of course I recommend it, because no one should suffer this kind of dreck alone!!!!   2/5
"I shall smite you in the nostrils with a rod of iron, and wax your spleen with Efferdent!!"


OK, I've been watching a movie a night for the last week or so.  Here are my thoughts on my last 3 viewings:
July 10 - OUT OF DARKNESS (2022)  I had high hopes for this when I watched the trailers online last year; the movie didn't really live up to my expectations.  It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't nearly as great as I hoped it would be.  Your mileage might vary. 3.5/5
July 11 - DON'T LOOK AWAY (2022)  Being stalked by a killer mannequin might sound like a lame movie idea, but they really sold it in this unconventional horror movie that had some genuinely terrifying moments.  The mannequin is never explained, but when you take your eyes off of it, it gets closer - so DON'T LOOK AWAY! Whatever you do. . .  A solid 4/5 in my book.
July 12 - FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)* - Perhaps my favorite vampire movie of all time; my daughter had never seen this classic, so we watched it tonight.  Chris Serandon is one of the most charming and sinister vampires of all time, and the makeup effects are amazing!  Roddy MacDowell is perfectly cast as Peter Vincent, the famous vampire killer of the silver screen, who faces a real vampire for the first time in his life.  If you've never seen this one, you are really missing a treat.  Personally, I think it's better than THE LOST BOYS.  Just the right blend of horror and comedy! 5/5
"I shall smite you in the nostrils with a rod of iron, and wax your spleen with Efferdent!!"

Dr. Whom

Quote from: indianasmith on July 12, 2024, 10:41:45 PMJuly 11 - DON'T LOOK AWAY (2022)  Being stalked by a killer mannequin might sound like a lame movie idea, but they really sold it in this unconventional horror movie that had some genuinely terrifying moments.  The mannequin is never explained, but when you take your eyes off of it, it gets closer - so DON'T LOOK AWAY! Whatever you do. . .  A solid 4/5 in my book.

That is a Weeping Angel
"Once you get past a certain threshold, everyone's problems are the same: fortifying your island and hiding the heat signature from your fusion reactor."

Wenn ist das Nunst├╝ck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput.


Quote from: Dr. Whom on July 13, 2024, 02:18:18 AM
Quote from: indianasmith on July 12, 2024, 10:41:45 PMJuly 11 - DON'T LOOK AWAY (2022)  when you take your eyes off of it, it gets closer - so DON'T LOOK AWAY! Whatever you do. . .  A solid 4/5 in my book.

That is a Weeping Angel

Potato, potahto! There is an all-time classic theatre game that adheres to these same essential rules and I've played it w/ students since maybe even before the Weeping Angels made their first appearance. I call it "Statue Detective" but some call it "Weeping Angels", some call it "Mr. Fox", some call it "FNAF The Live-Action Experience", and my ten-year old niece calls it "Night At The Museum" for some reason. No matter what you call it, it's always a riot to play... though I think it's more fun to play it than to watch it!


I started watching this under the assumption that it was a Kenneth Anger film and finished it under that same assumption, as the closing credits amusingly attribute direction, screenplay, cinematography, and producerial duties to "Anonymous". In fact it was the work of one James Bidgood, a photographer who began his film career w/ this 65-minute feature and got only 15 minutes into a follow-up before giving up on cinema altogether and dying in 2021. That's a real shame, 'cause PINK NARCISSUS earns much of the hyperbolic praise it receives on Letterboxd and elsewhere.

The only Anger film that it resembles stylistically is RABBIT'S MOON, but that's the best and most interesting Anger imo. Clear stylistic parallels to other filmmakers include Jean Cocteau; the animation of Svankmajer, Quay, and early Burton; and David Lynch as both a late 60s animator and a live-action director. Visually, PNARCISSUS is simply gorgeous and often fascinating; narratively it's extremely abstract, though not moreso than Cocteau's BLOOD OF A POET and less than Anger's found footage montages.

Okay, raising the twin flags of Anger and Cocteau might signal you to the content of PNARCISSUS: this is unapologetically Gay Cinema and frankly, inevitably/inescapably, gay erotica that borders on "porn", though Bidgood goes to extreme lengths to remain one toe-width within the softcore zone. It's frequently amusing how long he conceals large male members with tights, thongs, and damp briefs before finally relenting and allowing an actor in the background to drip bright yellow mustard absent-mindedly on his visible flaccid penis, before a shock cut to a POV of a hot dog cart (bearing the sign "GET 'EM WHILE YOU'RE HOT!") lunges threateningly at the viewer. Honestly PNARCISSUS is sometimes just hilarious. Bidgood isn't precious at all about his lean story of a beautiful young man lounging around his bedroom, trying to sleep yet constantly getting preoccupied with fantasies, mostly of his own body. For me the highlights were the passages that drift into the city streets outside the boy's apartment, which include the "hot dog" sequence as well as some ludicrous/priceless/hysterically camp appearances by legendary playwright Charles Ludlam; and the entirely lovely bookending sequences in a lovingly fabricated "nature" setting, which provide some larger sense of theme to the film (citydweller vs Natural Man perhaps).

Was I uncomfortable? I'm an old man, I've seen a lot and worked with a lot of folks, and if I experienced any abrupt homosexual panic, I certainly could've woken up my wife to come watch it with me, like Mike Pence might. (Madame 10rda would likely enjoy all the lovely cinematography of angelic youthful men.) PNARCISSUS definitely falls well enough within the realm of Art Film to not make any reasonable hetero male film lover too squeamish. Nonetheless Bidgood must've been worried enough about legal repercussions to remain "Anonymous" in the credits, though the editor and sound designer was credited, and rightly so - those city sequences feature gorgeous lush soundscapes of radio and TV dialogue that predate the Plunderphonic genre (probably my favorite type of "music") by at least a decade. Bidgood himself started making a hardcore feature after PNARCISSUS and what I can glean from it makes it sound problematic for reasons beyond even why Bidgood stopped production prematurely. Regardless of what I might've thought of that follow-up, PNARCISSUS is such an assured and striking debut that one cannot help but wish he'd kept going.


Only 65 minutes, probably would be best enjoyed in short snippets in an art gallery or projected on the wall in a dark nightclub, but easier to digest at full-length than a Matthew Barney flick.

Rev. Powell

THE MADS: A NIGHT OF SHORTS XVI: About an hour of shorts covering being quiet, Brits explaining the concept of "London" to other Brits, one about the existence of different types of pets, a marionette version of Rumpelstiltskin, and one on the importance of having Ideals. The Mads tend to do their best work on shorts, and this is no exception: the Rumpelstiltskin one is memorable (and potential nightmare fuel). The Q&A session is a who's-who of MST3K alum (to celebrate their 4th anniversary of livestreams): Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbet, Mary Jo Pehl, and Felicia Day. 3/5.
I'll take you places the hand of man has not yet set foot...


A shiftless young man commits his life to the titular profession as some kind of semi-conscious manifestation of a deep philosophical nihilism, before a sad dejected yet naturally lovely French girl provides him w/ a modest opportunity for redemption. Robert Bresson's most celebrated feature is one of those films that everyone who loves film is supposed to see, so at last I saw it. I didn't dislike it but I think its cache may be overestimated by those who prize it most highly...

Case in point, Paul Schrader contributes a comprehensive "Introduction" on the film's Criterion disk (which Criterion helpfully advises viewers to watch uhhh after the movie) and does a persuasive job inventorying all of Bresson's strategies and tactics for communicating what Scharder assures us is neither quite Doestoyevskian nor a dialectic though it resembles both. I didn't follow Scharder's math there but I did appreciate him acknowledging some of the details that I thought were intriguing, such as the lead consistently neglecting to lock his apartment door (where he hides his booty and thus also evidence of his crimes) and often even leaving the door wide open when he departs. I was a little less enlightened when Schrader discussed at length Bresson's (widely recognized) habit of employing non-actors and requiring them to project as little emotion as possible onscreen. Sadly, he doesn't make much of Bresson's (sometimes highly effective, sometimes frustrating) method of slowing down the many, many scenes of picking pockets and purses to nearly the point of literal slow motion, an approach that occasionally builds great suspense though at other times presses the credibility of the pickpockets and their utterly oblivious victims. And Schrader doesn't even mention that at some point late in the film the lead's suit starts to appear almost as big as David Byrne's famous suit from STOP TALKING SENSE. (Is he wasting away from paranoia or guilt? Ehhh!)

Often I like having other serious film folks explain tricky films to me even if I could probably figure them out on my own. I do have a film school degree and actually I think they played PICKPOCKET in my Freshman seminar, though I skipped it as I often did w/ films I smugly predicted would be of little interest to me. Although PICKPOCKET is plenty interesting, I suspect the major takeaway of most film students (and something I managed to adopt alas even w/o watching the film) is the necessity of having your actors cast their eyes meaningfully at the ground for a beat or three following every line of dialogue or other significant action. :bouncegiggle:  :bouncegiggle:  :bouncegiggle: Now srsly, that's the kind of directing short-hand that is useful for working w/ actors every now and again, but Bresson's actors do the eyes-down move literally so many times that if I was still a man who played drinking games while watching movies....... I'd be DOA before the end of PICKPOCKET. Hundreds of times, no lie. It becomes hilarious and then just preposterous and tiresome. 

Schrader claims PICKPOCKET is one of his favorite films yet I don't know that Schrader picked up too many specifics from Bresson's toolbox. David Mamet, on the other hand, was clearly one filmmaker who borrowed nearly everything from Bresson, to the point perhaps of pathological compulsion. A couple of Mamet's directorial efforts are still outstanding in spite of his reliance on those highly niche Bressonisms but then a lot of people hated Mamet's movies even before he lost his damn mind a decade ago, and many of Mamet's key collaborators (Baldwin, Macy, Mantegna, Steve Martin) have publicly admitted they would just nod and pretend they were taking Mamet's direction and then act normally anyway. Maybe the lesson is that Bresson's very peculiar films, not least of them PICKPOCKET, work mysteriously on their unique flavor but shouldn't ever be recreated under anyone else's controlled conditions. I suppose that's Movie Magic for you.

It's a weird film but it pays off at the end.

I gotta' say early 00s Schrader looks and sounds like a Patton Oswalt character. Also he's wrong, PICKPOCKET is completely Doestoyevskian.