Iro's One Movie a Day Thread

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28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Fair point. I'd argue that the film not being interested in the story was the point, but then again I concede that just because that's the point being made doesn't mean it being made well.

At least there's nowhere to go but up, right? (Anyway, I just found it on TV recently, what do you want from my life?)

Halfway through I figured that was the point...then I thought, why am I wasting my time with this if there is no point?
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

Good whiskey make jackrabbit slap de bear.
I liked Fatal Attraction a bit more than you did, but I didn't think it was very good either.

And I don't care what anyone says, Double Team kicks ass.
"George, this is a little too much for me. Escaped convicts, fugitive sex... I've got a cockfight to focus on."

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#166 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mira Nair, 2012

A Pakistan-born Muslim moves to America intending to become a successful businessman but finds his loyalties conflicted by the September 11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror.

I read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist a few years back and remember being impressed by its unorthodox take on the War on Terror, especially through the viewpoint of a Pakistani Muslim. I had heard mixed things about the film but still felt that I needed to see this. From the very beginning it's clear that a lot of things have been added or changed in order to make for a more superficially compelling narrative - namely, the augmentation of the framing story where the titular character (Riz Ahmed) tells his life story to an American journalist (Liev Schreiber). While the book only implied that the journalist was more than he claimed to be, the film starts off by fleshing him out considerably and making him part of an undercover operation to flush out Islamic radicals following the kidnapping of an American foreign national. While it does seem to provide a rationale behind the framing story, in doing so it sacrifices the novel's ambiguity for a more conventional resolution that does undercut the rest of the film somewhat. At least the central story focusing on Ahmed's transition stayed true enough to the book (at least what I can remember - it has been a few years, after all).

Ahmed makes for a great protagonist who believably conveys his character's inner sense of turmoil even without the aid of narration as he is torn between his original desire to become a productive, upstanding member of Western society and his growing sympathy for those who are undeservingly victimised by the War on Terror. Other characters serve as further complications for him, such as his stern but loving parents (Om Puri and Shabana Azmi) or his demanding yet affable boss (Kiefer Sutherland) both pulling him towards one side or the other. The main issue is his relationship with an aspiring artist (Kate Hudson), whose own narrative also diverges radically from that of her literary counterpart, but Hudson isn't quite good enough to sell either the old or the new facets of her character (especially the new ones, which are seriously jarring). The direction is competent and the juggling of both the past and present narratives is handled reasonably well, even if the latter is a bit more conventional than this film really deserves. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a decent enough film for the most part and the tale of Ahmed's tragic hero being forced into a difficult situation is a fascinating one. Unfortunately, the expansion of the novel's framing story (to say nothing of other significant changes) ends up dragging things down just enough to stop me considering this a genuinely good film. Even if it is supposed to keep the film interesting as Ahmed's character tells his story, it does take a morally grey narrative and make it a little more black-and-white (but fortunately not enough to completely ruin the film).

I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

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#167 - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Nicholas Meyer, 1991

After the Klingon Empire agrees to negotiate a peace treaty with the Federation, Kirk is falsely accused of assassinating a Klingon diplomat.

Ah, an even-numbered Star Trek film from back when that used to mean something. Despite the incredible lack of subtlety of the Cold War allegory at the heart of the narrative (at one point one character says, "In space, all wars are cold wars") and the fact that the main cast are all noticeably older, this film actually ends up being one of the best Trek films (at least in my opinion, and as of writing I've seen all of them except for The Final Frontier). It helps that this film has some serious stakes thanks to a plot that has its fair share of political intrigue, twisting narrative and sci-fi action. It even manages to make casting choices that seem bizarre - Christopher Plummer as a Klingon general, Kim Cattrall as a Vulcan helmsman, Michael Dorn as someone other than Worf - work in the film's favour (especially Plummer, who brings some serious gravitas to what could've easily been a cartoon of a character). The main cast, well, at this stage they definitely know their roles through and through and all get something to do. The effects work is solid enough, as is the score. If this is supposed to be the last true adventure for the original Trek cast (Generations be damned), then it's definitely a good one.

I remember Road Games as being better than that. Not great but better. There again, I've not seen it since I was about 15.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

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#168 - Knocked Up
Judd Apatow, 2007

An unemployed slacker and an entertainment journalist find their respective worlds turned upside down after their one-night-stand results in an unwanted pregnancy.

I first watched Knocked Up on a returning international flight back in 2007 and on the basis of that viewing I ended up ranking this as my second least favourite film ever on a list I did a few years back. Even with such a condemnation, it was always in the back of my mind to give it a second chance, even though I've always been sort of skeptical about the quality of any film that had even the slightest connection to Judd Apatow. My original assessment was that Knocked Up was a bloated excuse for a comedy that mixed a somewhat unsurprising romantic comedy premise and proceeded to fill it with a bunch of irritating characters cracking jokes that seemed to be more for their own amusement than the audience's. Time to see what's changed...

Well, not all that much. Too much of the humour in this film feels like it relied too much on the male cast members riffing off one another (the most blatant example being Martin Starr's character being the constant butt of beard jokes throughout the film) and the fact that, with the possible exception of Seth Rogen's protagonist (because he at least grows up a bit during the film), they're all pretty damn obnoxious in their own ways. It doesn't help that on the other side of the snob-slob divide you have Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann - while Heigl does her best with a fairly typical rom-com female lead role, Mann's uptight helicopter mum comes across as even more grating than she's even supposed to be. The fact that Heigl's character works for the E! Network seems to be an all-too-convenient excuse to cram in a cavalcade of cameos, to say nothing of all the well-known (or soon-to-be well-known) comedic faces that show up throughout the film that either don't get good material to work with or fail to properly work what little there is. I know that, given the director and actors involved, this film's jokes are probably going to earn their R rating through a load of gross humour, but only one really got a good laugh out of me. Also, I know that a pregnancy is supposed to last nine months, but that doesn't mean the film has to feel like it takes nine months. The dramatic elements aren't potent enough to justify this film lasting longer than 100 minutes, let alone 120.

In the end, I guess I have mellowed out a bit over this film. Certainly not enough to despise it completely, but it's still extremely lacklustre in virtually every regard. At least The 40-Year-Old Virgin, despite having a lot of the same problems with its approach to comedy, had a somewhat original premise to go along with it. Knocked Up has no such excuse and ends up combining the flaws of both standard Hollywood romantic comedies and stoner/bro comedies, making this a fairly difficult film to sit through (especially when it hits the two-hour mark). Though the two leads are thankfully not terrible enough to make the whole film feel like a chore, too much of it still does anyway thanks to a lot of characters that are too annoying to be funny. Then again, I might give it a third chance in 2023 and find it passable.

I've seen Girl, Interrupted, which I liked, and Roadgames, which was so-so, but I don't remember much about either.

Not seen the Swedish films or read the books, but I liked Fincher's version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo quite a bit, although it took a couple of viewings for me to really dig it. I still think the movie is too long, but the length didn't wear me down as much on a second viewing. Plus some of my initial confusion regarding who's who with all the weird Swedish names was cleared up after that initial watch, which helped me feel more involved with the mystery. I loved the look and style of the film. Plus I was very attracted to Rooney Mara's character. If there's one thing we need more of in cinema, it's Gothic chicks kicking dildos up men's asses.

Double Team is one of the only Van Damme movies I've never seen, and that's counting the long list of straight-to-DVD movies he's starred in since his 90's heyday. Even as a kid who idolized Van Damme and watched his movies over and over, I knew the presence of Dennis Rodman could only mean bad things.

I like Knocked Up and own it on DVD, but it's easily thirty minutes too long. Apatow's inability to cut material from his films seems to be getting worse with each subsequent film. Even The 40-Year-Old Virgin suffers from that problem, otherwise it would be one of my favorite comedies.

You can't make a rainbow without a little rain.
+ rep for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Did you know that the reason that David Warner was cast as a different character in ST6 was because most of his scenes from ST5 were left on the cutting room floor?

BTW, the picture for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country isn't showing up.

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+ rep for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Did you know that the reason that David Warner was cast as a different character in ST6 was because most of his scenes from ST5 were left on the cutting room floor?

BTW, the picture for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country isn't showing up.
Huh, it was showing up for me. I replaced it anyway - can you see it now?

Wow I don't check your page for a few days Now I have caught up
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.

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#169 - X-Men: The Last Stand
Brett Ratner, 2006

The X-Men are forced back into battle when a genetically engineered "cure" for mutants is created.

The things I do in order to fill out an alphabet challenge...I somehow managed to avoid all the X-Men films between X2 and First Class, but even then I'd heard how this one really dropped the ball after the first two. Still, a challenge is a challenge, and this film was certainly a challenge to get through (ba-dum-tish). X-Men: The Last Stand may retain some fairly flashy effects work from its predecessors, but that's all pretty much cancelled out by a barrage of plot holes (without even counting the ones that have been caused as a result of subsequently released films interfering with the canon, such as that entire opening prologue) that are obvious even on a first viewing. Just because the action and effects look good doesn't mean they make sense, to say nothing of the actual plot. The premise of a cure for mutants has some potential but the greater implications aren't really explored because it's really just a means to guarantee yet another three-way war between the X-Men, Magneto and humans.

Instead, more attention is paid to the resurrection of Jean Grey as an extraordinarily dangerous and evil telepath whose out-of-control powers are only brought up when it's not too inconvenient to do so or only to provide some super-sad character deaths (and also provide a tragic romantic subplot between her and Wolverine). There's also the matter of a sub-plot between Rogue, Iceman and Kitty Pryde that, though it does sort of tie in with the whole "cure" plot, sticks out as a really awkward romantic sub-plot full of clichéd misunderstandings. Even the introduction of Beast feels a bit underwhelming. X-Men: The Last Stand isn't the worst movie ever, but I can certainly understand why the fans hated it. It looks alright as far as superhero movies go, but it's horribly inconsistent and veers wildly between being too silly and too dull. Even so, I still feel like watching those other stand-alone Wolverine movies for...some reason. At the very least, I have to know whether or not they're any worse than this.

Master of My Domain
I love X-Men 3 because of the silliness. Even better, then film takes itself super seriously, the most in the entire series. Ironic isn't it.


Great reviews, Holden.

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#170 - Jaws: The Revenge
Joseph Sargent, 1987

When her youngest son is killed during a shark attack, a widowed Ellen Brody opts to join her surviving son in the Bahamas, but is soon troubled by the same shark coming to take revenge.

Even though I have considered Jaws a Top 10 favourite for years now, I have only just managed to watch one of its three sequels and, surprise, surprise, it's not only the worst of the bunch but it's also got a reputation for being one of the worst movies ever made. Of course that'd appeal to my sensibilities on the basis of its reputation alone, but upon actually watching it I can see that this isn't the kind of bad movie that you can enjoy on your own. The reason why Jaws: The Revenge is a genuinely awful movie is because it's boooooring. Even if we take into account the sheer inanity of the premise - the idea that the shark is not only related to the shark that died at the hands of Chief Brody in the original film but is sapient enough to try to chase down and kill everyone else from the Brody family, to the point of being able to magically follow the surviving members from Amity Island to the Bahamas is, to put it mildly, ridiculous - the rest of the film is about as cold and lifeless as a mechanical shark.

The plot for much of the film is driven by the fact that surviving son Michael is a marine biologist who keeps working in the water to fund his project, which naturally freaks out Ellen and she spends much of the film hysterically trying to convince Michael to stay out of the water to little success. Fortunately enough, the tension is suppressed by the inclusion of the one and only Michael Caine as a pilot who befriends the rest of the cast. He also (rather predictably) ends up serving as a somewhat romantic companion to Ellen, trying to get her to loosen up about the whole magic shark thing (which doesn't help when she psychically detects the shark about to attack someone...yeah, I don't know what's going on). The only thing worse than the increasingly absurd additions to the franchise is the ways in which it shamelessly copies scenes from the original film - even small moments such as a parent and child mimicking one another playfully (which is also referenced by a sepia-toned flashback to the original film, which just adds a lot of insult to this considerable injury).

Given their inconsistency and bad timing, the flashbacks are just one of several ways that this film insults its source (especially during the film's climax). The shark's practical effects aren't especially awful (to the naked eye it's more or less indistinguishable from the original shark) but considering how often you see the shark you don't get a lot of terror out of its appearances. At one point it literally roars out loud. I mean...yikes. You can glean some amusement from this film's generally poor quality and bizarre internal logic, but it's still a slow and boring film for the most part that completely undercuts any actual terror it might have held.

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#171 - McLintock!
Andrew V. McLaglen, 1963

A successful cattle baron has to deal with multiple problems, including the governor's attempts to disenfranchise Native American workers and the return of his estranged wife and daughter.

I realise that, given how he has well over a hundred film credits to his name, it would make sense that not every film that John Wayne appeared in would be a stone-cold classic. In fact, some of them might even be downright terrible. McLintock! isn't a totally awful film, but I have a hard time getting much out of it. It's hard to know which of the film's two plots is more important, that of Wayne's titular protagonist butting heads with some politicians over a land-owning dispute or the drama that develops with the return of his estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara) and daughter (Stefanie Powers). One would think it was the former, and it does give us the film's best scene in the form of a massive mud-fight that involves much of the main cast, but it seems like much of the film's more memorable scenes come about as a result of the romantic tension unfolding elsewhere - namely, as a result of the somewhat complicated mess of affairs happening around his homestead. Despite the serious implications of the land-owning plot, the film is still played for as much farce and slapstick as possible, often to poor effect. It's one thing to understand how some of the scenes in this film could come across as racist or sexist, but when the film's climax involves

WARNING: "McLintock!" spoilers below
O'Hara's haughty upper-class woman getting tarred and feathered, stripped down to her undergarments and ultimately spanked with a coal shovel by Wayne in full view of the entire town, who watch and laugh as she apparently gets her comeuppance before the film ends with O'Hara apparently reconciling with Wayne

it just seems so off that, if it wasn't for the jaunty orchestral music playing throughout that sequence, I would never have thought it was apparently being played for laughs (and it doesn't help how searching for a header image turned up a lot of pictures of that very scene). Just because McLintock! has the same solid production values and cast members as any other Wayne vehicle doesn't mean it's an automatically entertaining film. The film's broader comedic elements can be amusing at times, but more than often it's likely to result in me questioning just what the hell I'm watching. Even the serious parts of the film feel a bit underwritten and tend to clash hard with the rest of it - how are you going to make some points against government interference and the displacement of Native Americans alongside multiple scenes of spanking disobedient women or threatening to cut off a Chinese man's ponytail? That's the Duke for you, I guess.

Fun fact: this was directed by the same man who directed Mitchell. Yes, that Mitchell.

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#172 - The Vanishing
George Sluizer, 1988

A Dutch couple go on vacation in France but the woman is kidnapped, leading the man to spend years obsessing over her disappearance.

I already knew how The Vanishing would end ahead of renting it, and while it is sort of presented as something of a twist, in the wider context of the film it ultimately isn't and is instead just the logical conclusion of both its main characters' journeys. The filmmaking on display is fairly standard-looking, which only suits the subject matter even more, though the score does sound awfully dated and has a tendency to damage a scene's mood considerably (case in point - a blackly comic scene where the villain practices his methodology for kidnapping a victim has some whimsical music playing behind it that intends to emphasise the comedy but instead ends up diluting it). Otherwise, it's a solid enough piece of work about the strangely symbiotic relationship that develops between its hero and villain. The acting is serviceable, though credit is due to the two leads for managing to convey how they really aren't so different in their searches for some greater truth (even if the villain's quest is merely to find out just how much evil he is capable of). This does make the seemingly implausible third act play out reasonably well.

Unfortunately, the problem with having the film hinge on the relationship between hero and villain is that it takes a while for that relationship to seriously form. As such, the first act does go by rather slowly in setting up the disappearance and kicking off the plot. Then there's a sequence of scenes showcasing the whole "hero's obsession with disappearance ruins his life" narrative intertwined with the villain's flashbacks to his preparation for the act, which are somewhat comical due to his apparent ineptitude at finding a victim. This is definitely a film that deserves to be remembered for its intriguing take on its lead characters' psychological profiles and the third act is well-handled, but the first two acts are awfully pedestrian and, though I don't doubt their necessity to the story, still feel dull enough that sitting through them feels like a chore.

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#173 - Tusk
Kevin Smith, 2014

A self-centred comedian looking for new material ends up being taken prisoner by an old man who wants to turn him into a walrus.

Kevin Smith used to be one of my favourite filmmakers but as the years have passed I've become less and less impressed with his filmography, especially his most recent entries (though I still have a soft spot for Clerks above all else). Then came his years-in-the-making horror film Red State, which focused on a murderous religious cult and ditched his typical brand of comedy. While it wasn't the best film he's ever done, it was a sufficiently unsettling left-field endeavour that showed that he had some range beyond his usual brand of R-rated geek humour. Naturally, he ended up following up on that potential by using his podcast to pitch this concept to his fans: a horror movie based on an (ultimately fake) ad for an apartment where one of the conditions was that the tenant had to dress as a walrus for the landlord's amusement. With Tusk, Smith obviously takes that concept to a horrific extreme and, though the ludicrous nature of the film's premise seems like it'd make for a comedy as well, it's hard to know what side of the horror-comedy scale Tusk falls upon.

If Tusk can indeed be considered a horror-comedy, then its comedy side is certainly very lacking. Justin Long plays the film's protagonist, an extremely arrogant and insensitive podcast host (to the point of naming his podcast the "Not-See Party" - haha, get it?), but unfortunately neither he or his slightly more down-to-earth co-host (Haley Joel Osment) generate any laughs. Not even his girlfriend (Génesis Rodriguez) and her consternation with his awfulness is enough to get any laughs - in fact, it's baffling as to how she's stayed together with him for what sounds like years. I do wonder if Long's incredibly awful brand of humour is supposed to be unfunny on purpose, but that obviously doesn't extend to the jokes at his expense either. Michael Parks, who previously played the villainous preacher in Smith's Red State, brings a similar sort of unhinged energy to his role as the retired adventurer who serves as the villain of this piece as well. At the very least Parks plays his role extremely well, with his soft-spoken air of kindness rarely breaking even after revealing his true intentions and ramping up his insanity with each new scene. Unfortunately, the most obviously comical performance in the film is courtesy of a certain Hollywood big-shot suddenly appearing in the last half hour or so as an obsessive detective - granted, said actor has a knack for delivering all manner of eccentric performances but this one threatens to grind the film to a halt. This is especially true during his character's flashback to an encounter with Parks' character that goes nowhere and adds nothing, further emphasising the thinness of this movie's plot.

Which brings me to the horror side of things. Smith has compared the film to that most notorious of recent body-horror shockers, The Human Centipede, which is not a difficult comparison to make given how both films share the whole "madman surgically turns victim into grotesque animal" premise. The thing about that kind of premise is that there really isn't that much in the way of genuine tension there. Sure, there's the palpable sense of disgust at seeing the finished result of the villain's attempt to play God (and the disturbing nature of all the following scenes as villain and victim interact), but is that really an adequate substitute for the dread that defines many a great horror? Once that's happened, you more or less have to wait out the rest of the film for what you know isn't going to be a happy ending. Then again, this is not the kind of film that relies on surprising its audience, except when it comes to the body-horror itself, and in fairness, the end result does feature some alright effects work. I still don't know whether or not that means the film is a success - sure, it's supposed to be gross and it succeeds at being gross, but just because it's good at being gross doesn't necessarily mean it's good full stop.

Tusk is a mess of a film. Its gimmicky premise and largely lacklustre execution squanders what little goodwill Smith had earned from Red State. The more obviously comical moments fall flat (especially the inclusion of the aforementioned incognito A-lister), while the fact that there is such a comedic angle only serves to taint the moments that are even close to being horrifying (such as Parks' calmly deranged performance or Long's unsettling final form). Even the moments that mix comedy and horror (such as one scene that plays out to the tune of a certain Fleetwood Mac song - here's a hint, it's not "Gold Dust Woman") are at once too bizarre and too simple to appreciate. Apparently Smith wants this to be the first installment in a trilogy of loosely-connected films that all involve horror and Canada. I don't hold out much hope that the other two will be good, but it's hard to imagine them being worse than this.