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I went and saw Candyman (2021) today. I thought it was an intelligent, socially conscious horror film that I enjoyed. I thought Nia DaCosta did a very good job directing the film, building on the legacy of the original Candyman and putting her own spin on it. The story was told in a smart and satisfying way. I felt the cast, especially Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Colman Domingo, gave effective and engaging performance For me, this is the 5th best film of the year so far.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.

Purple Sea (Amel Alzakout & Khaled Abdulwahed, 2020)
4/10
Troma's War (Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, 1988)
6/10
Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)
7/10
Sweet Thing (Alexandre Rockwell, 2021)
- 6.5/10

Brother Nico Rockwell, sister Lana Rockwell and new friend Jabari Watkins have picaresque adventures when they run away from home.
Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben, 2021)
+ 6/10
Deadbeat at Dawn (Jim Van Bebber, 1988)
+ 5/10
Rare Beasts (Billie Piper, 2019)
5.5/10
Buddy (Heddy Honigmann, 2018)
6.5/10

Guide dog and its blind human show great love for each other.
Aquarela (Viktor Kosakovskiy, 2018)
- 6.5/10
The Last Matinee AKA Red Screening (Maximiliano Contenti, 2020)
6-/10
Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (Jim Van Bebber, 1994)
4/10
The Scarlet Pimpernel (Harold Young, 1934)
+ 6.5/10

"That damned elusive pimpernel" - Leslie Howard.
Vacation Friends (Clay Tarver, 2021)
+ 6/10
The Stairs (Peter 'Drago' Tiemann, 2021)
+ 5/10
Rushed (Vibeke Muasya, 2021)
+ 6/10
Brian Eno: 1971-1977 - The Man Who Fell to Earth (No Director Listed, 2011)
+ 6.5/10

Eno, here with Roxy Music founder Bryan Ferry, was one of the most innovative music makers of the 1970s.
Los Reyes (IvŠn Osnovikoff & Bettina Perut, 2018)
+ 6/10
Behemoth (Peter Szewczyk, 2020)
+ 5/10
The Old Ways (Christopher Alender, 2020)
5.5/10
The Wild One (Laslo Benedek, 1953)
7/10

- Johnny (Marlon Brando), leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club.
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SF = Z


[Snooze Factor Ratings]:
Z = didn't nod off at all
Zz = nearly nodded off but managed to stay alert
Zzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed
Zzzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed but nodded off again at the same point and therefore needed to go back a number of times before I got through it...
Zzzzz = nodded off and missed some or the rest of the film but was not interested enough to go back over it



I went and saw Candyman (2021) today. I thought it was an intelligent, socially conscious horror film that I enjoyed. I thought Nia DaCosta did a very good job directing the film, building on the legacy of the original Candyman and putting her own spin on it. The story was told in a smart and satisfying way. I felt the cast, especially Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Colman Domingo, gave effective and engaging performance For me, this is the 5th best film of the year so far.
This is great news! I am a huge fan of the original, but I also think it's a premise that could be great for a reimagining, so I was both excited and nervous when I heard about the new version. I've heard enough positive things that I'm excited to see it.




Mulholland Drive (2001)

Responding to Phoenix74, I finally sat down to watch this picture after avoiding it for 20 years. There were several enjoyable elements, chiefly the superb acting of Naomi Watts in a role that demanded the use of a wide range of her acting chops; but also the productionís obvious technical achievements, such as Lynchís use of Crayola type colors in his sets, and also the first rate cinematography by Peter Deming. The art and production designers certainly had a work out as well.

The film is basically a lesbian fantasy wrapped in an abstract and often incoherent neo-noir mystery. At times the primitive scenes are morphed into something entirely new with no explanation. The actors played against a dream-like but pretentiously incongruous or muddled narrative made it seem like someoneís graduate film school project. During other passages the action and suspense were very Hitchcockian. Yet at no time did I feel as if I were watching a great motion picture.

Some of the film is very comparable to abstract painting, as it is in other segments of Lynchís movies: make of it what you will. There is no ďrightĒ answer, which allows endless speculation and intellectualization. The story starts as a mystery with the common noir trope of amnesia, and ends with a disquieting thud, followed by a mysterious uttered coda. The film has dream-like quality for sure, but itís not surrealism. Some find the picture endlessly hip, while others might consider it artsy bunco. I lean toward the latter. Itís likely that Lynch has not revealed its meaning simply because it has no meaning.

The cast was enjoyable, from the brief cameos by Robert Forester and Dan Hedaya, to the smoldering sensuality of Laura Harring (in her best Rita Hayworth impersonation). Naomi Watts, who puts me in mind of a 20th Century Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt), is the keystone of the movie, and she came through in spades. Justin Theroux as the director Adam Kesher was put through the hoops, and provided some of the minimal comedy. It was delightful to see the great Ann Miller as Coco, the landlady, in her last film screen role.

In the final analysis I experienced the film much the same as when listening to a great jazz solo. I enjoy it, notice several outstanding portions, but resist analyzing it any further.

Docís rating: 6/10



Drugstore Cowboy - (1989)

Good second feature from Gus Van Sant - a critical success that preceded My Own Private Idaho. Four drug addicts, led by Bob (Matt Dillon) rob pharmacies and hospitals - both using and dealing what they get away with. Will it be redemption or disaster for Bob in the final act? The film gets down and dirty without really getting as down or dirty as it could. I think it holds back a bit simply due to the rating it would have got if if didn't, but it's a decent film regardless.

6.5/10
I really enjoyed that film. Very real. And I loved seeing the "Beat Generation's" William S. Burroughs as "Father Tom" Murphy, a natural talent.



Very clever movie. Brando is nearly always good, and I really love Richard Boone as a bad guy-- one of the best. The twist puts me in mind of The Woman in the Window (1944) with Edward G. Robinson.



I watched HOLY MOTORS after my distaste for ANNETTE set a fire under me. As I expected, I liked it far more than ANNETTE in virtually every single way except that, for a movie about life as an acting performance, it doesnít contain a performance nearly as strong as Adam Drivers, instead asking Denis Lavant to rely more heavily on make-up than performance as he mimes his way through bizarre cinematic scenario after bizarre cinematic scenario. I donít mean to sound as though it is a poor performance, as it is both daring and the correct approach for this material, itís just lesser next to Driver.

Iím gonna chalk my dislike for Annette almost entirely on Sparks at this point.




I watched HOLY MOTORS after my distaste for ANNETTE set a fire under me. As I expected, I liked it far more than ANNETTE in virtually every single way except that, for a movie about life as an acting performance, it doesnít contain a performance nearly as strong as Adam Drivers, instead asking Denis Lavant to rely more heavily on make-up than performance as he mimes his way through bizarre cinematic scenario after bizarre cinematic scenario. I donít mean to sound as though it is a poor performance, as it is both daring and the correct approach for this material, itís just lesser next to Driver.

Iím gonna chalk my dislike for Annette almost entirely on Sparks at this point.

I think that rating is more or less where I fell on my first viewing; it has improved a bit for me, because of how much it stuck with me. Anyway, not sure if I shared this with you, but this is something I wrote back when I saw it.

I really enjoyed Lavant's performance(s). I really felt him immersed in the different scenarios, all of which are wildly different. But putting the dramatic part of the performance, I doubt there would've been another actor with the athleticism that Carax required for the role.
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Mulholland Drive (2001)

Responding to Phoenix74, I finally sat down to watch this picture after avoiding it for 20 years. There were several enjoyable elements, chiefly the superb acting of Naomi Watts in a role that demanded the use of a wide range of her acting chops; but also the productionís obvious technical achievements, such as Lynchís use of Crayola type colors in his sets, and also the first rate cinematography by Peter Deming. The art and production designers certainly had a work out as well.

The film is basically a lesbian fantasy wrapped in an abstract and often incoherent neo-noir mystery. At times the primitive scenes are morphed into something entirely new with no explanation. The actors played against a dream-like but pretentiously incongruous or muddled narrative made it seem like someoneís graduate film school project. During other passages the action and suspense were very Hitchcockian. Yet at no time did I feel as if I were watching a great motion picture.

Some of the film is very comparable to abstract painting, as it is in other segments of Lynchís movies: make of it what you will. There is no ďrightĒ answer, which allows endless speculation and intellectualization. The story starts as a mystery with the common noir trope of amnesia, and ends with a disquieting thud, followed by a mysterious uttered coda. The film has dream-like quality for sure, but itís not surrealism. Some find the picture endlessly hip, while others might consider it artsy bunco. I lean toward the latter. Itís likely that Lynch has not revealed its meaning simply because it has no meaning.

The cast was enjoyable, from the brief cameos by Robert Forester and Dan Hedaya, to the smoldering sensuality of Laura Harring (in her best Rita Hayworth impersonation). Naomi Watts, who puts me in mind of a 20th Century Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt), is the keystone of the movie, and she came through in spades. Justin Theroux as the director Adam Kesher was put through the hoops, and provided some of the minimal comedy. It was delightful to see the great Ann Miller as Coco, the landlady, in her last film screen role.

In the final analysis I experienced the film much the same as when listening to a great jazz solo. I enjoy it, notice several outstanding portions, but resist analyzing it any further.

Docís rating: 6/10
I'm a huge fan of the film so obviously I disagree with your dismissal of it, but at least I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of it.

As far as I'm concerned, I find it mesmerizing. I think I've said it before here but when I first rented it back in 2001, I saw it three times back-to-back-to-back, and have seen it several times afterwards. I think that once you get the drift of the story, it's fairly "straightforward", but regardless of that, I don't think the enjoyment is in "understanding" the film, but in "feeling" it, as clichť as it might sound.

If you're interested, here's what I wrote about it last time I rewatched it (a couple of months ago), and if you want to dive further, here's a special episode of my podcast that I dedicated to one scene from the film.





Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, 1997

Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are high school best friends, still living together a decade after graduating high school. When they learn that their 10-year high school reunion is approaching, they take a stark look at their lives and begin to panic. Together they decide to put of a fake front of success at the reunion.

This is one of those films where I can vividly remember it being released. Specifically, I can remember the trailer playing on TV ("We're not the ones who got fat." "We're pregnant, you idiot!"). I was never super interested, but actually watching it I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, is this an all-time great comedy? Nah. But I found it solidly entertaining from beginning to end. The structure is kind of an enjoyable mess, with long flashbacks, interludes, and an extended dream sequence.

The biggest delight, for me, was Mira Sorvino and her excellent chemistry with Lisa Kudrow. Sorvino was one of the women named as someone who was knowingly blacklisted after enduring harassment from Harvey Weinstein. I've only seen her in a few things, and I really enjoyed the way that she played her character and her comedic timing.

Romy and Michele are interesting main characters. They walk this line between two stereotypes: the dumb blondes and the high school misfits. In a way, it's kind of neat. A lot of movies show attractive, charismatic people as "outsiders" in movies and it just never feels real. Romy and Michele are pretty and thin and all that, but they are also just really weird. (To up the misfit-status, Romy is overweight and Michele wears a huge back-brace).

The film does lack a compelling villain. The mean girls who tormented Romy and Michele in high school are, of course, just as awful at the reunion. Ultimately, though, the film is about the relationship between the two leads. In a moment of discord, they turn on each other as the reason that they haven't "made it." the nature of both their split and their reconciliation makes a lot of sense from an emotional point of view, even if they are wrapped in an absurd story about inventing post-it notes and synchronized dancing.

Aside from lacking a great villain, there's also something a bit off about a romantic subplot between Michele and a guy named Sandy (Alan Cumming). Sandy has a huge crush on Michele in high school, which she knows about but ignores (not unkindly, but also not . . . super kindly). The final act is very ridiculous and over-the-top, but I still found it a bit icky that Michele changes her mind about someone because he is now handsome and rich. It's literally what Romy and Michele thought they'd need to be loved and respected by their peers. It's just a very strange double standard. Again, the absurdity of the last act does mitigate this, but it kind of bugged me and it puts sort of a negative spin on the main characters, especially Michele.

In a week where I really needed some goofy joy, this was the perfect film.




I like Romy and Michelle. It's one of those movies that doesn't have to be a fully good movie to be good. It lives or dies with those two characters, and even though I don't remember anything in particular about them, I remember liking watching them. Which is sometimes enough.





Untold: Malice at the Palace, 2021

In this documentary, several players (mainly Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal, and Stephen Jackson), coaches, and other related witnesses recount the ugly 2004 brawl between the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons, and Pistons fans in the Detroit stadium. The documentary sets up the internal team dynamics, the bigger picture of the league at that time, and then dissects the event and the aftermath.

I am not a huge sports fan, and I run very hot and cold with different sports. For example, sometimes I will watch a ton of a hockey season or basketball season, or whatever. But I definitely do not have a great sense of the game.

So it is always interesting to me to watch documentaries like this one, because I really don't have my own perspective, memories, or opinions on the events. In fact, I'd be interested to hear what someone more familiar with the players and the situation thinks of the events as they are presented.

The thing that stuck out to me the most in this documentary is just how many different pressures were placed on this group of men. Don't get me wrong: I think that professional athletes (like any group of people with a lot of money and power) can be the absolute worst, But there's an apparent honesty to the way that the players reflect on their behaviors that I found really compelling. Metta World Peace, in particular, and the way that he describes the dynamics of his depression and anxiety is very interesting to watch. The guy is dealing with some serious mental health issues (seriously, look no further than how borderline distraught he is after winning a championship, describing himself as a coward and looking like something horrible has happened). One of the most compelling things to me was when he describes that ANY extreme--whether it's scoring a winning layup or getting in a fight--is not a good mental state for him. So often, one of the things that is idolized when it comes to professional athletes is their intensity. But what the interviews seem to show is that intensity can come from a healthy place or an unhealthy place.

I was also very interested in the discussion of fan culpability. I was an athlete in high school and in college, and I coached a middle school team for seven years and the absolute worst part of it all is the fans. There is this bizarre cultural acceptance of really despicable, cruel behavior (some of it barely-veiled or just explicitly bigoted). While I didn't approve of a lot of the behavior from the players, I found myself absolutely disgusted by the behavior of the fans. Throwing everything from beers to a chair, dumping food and drinks over the players, coming down to the court to confront the players, and so on. The documentary interviews a fan who came onto the court (and I'll be real--watching Artest punch him out was a highlight of the documentary) and the man who instigated the fan fight by throwing a beer, and they were easily the worst. Just the worst. Like, the smirk on the face of the man who threw the drink as he says he has zero remorse about the wrong fan being attacked by a player was just . . .ugh. At least the players have the excuse of high emotion and adrenaline from a competition.

And the third most interesting aspect for me was the examination of the aftermath. Everything from the racialized language used against the players who were involved (the word "thugs" and "hip-hop" are thrown around to an absurd degree), to the fact that Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, acted alone in determining who was suspended and for how long. Even the disclosure from the prosecutor that the NBA basically requested that the players be charged and that the prosecutor had to push back and assert that he was also going to go after the fans. There's also the absurd moment of a police officer preparing to mace Reggie Miller, asserting he didn't know who he was, immediately followed by Jackson's disbelieving "How do you not know Reggie Miller from the Pacers?!?!".

There wasn't much that I felt was missing from this. Whether the interviewees were honest with the interviewer (or honest with themselves) is something that others would be more qualified to say. I really enjoyed listening to all of the men speak. They are at an interesting place where they have some distance from the events and have had some time to come to terms with the aftermath, and yet a lot of it is still clearly very raw.




I like Romy and Michelle. It's one of those movies that doesn't have to be a fully good movie to be good. It lives or dies with those two characters, and even though I don't remember anything in particular about them, I remember liking watching them. Which is sometimes enough.
Exactly.



I like Romy and Michelle. It's one of those movies that doesn't have to be a fully good movie to be good. It lives or dies with those two characters, and even though I don't remember anything in particular about them, I remember liking watching them. Which is sometimes enough.
Yeah, I haven't seen it in a long time, don't remember much about it, but do remember having fun with it.





The Family Next Door, 2020

This documentary uses police bodycam footage, text messages, Facebook posts, news reports, and other primary sources to document the investigation following the disappearance of a woman named Shanann Watts and her two young daughters.

About three minutes into this one, I realized that I'd seen some of the footage already. The case of Shanann Watts is actually pretty big-profile, and so I did have a sense of where things were going. But with 90 minutes to fill, there was a lot more background, context, and aftermath than I'd ever been aware of.

WARNING! The rest of this review discusses the true-crime case of Shanann Watts and the outcome of the case!!! So SPOILERS, sort of, because I think most people are probably actually familiar with this case and how it ended.

It's apparent (or seems apparent, more about this later) as Chris Watts smirks his way through various interviews that Shanann and the kids are dead. What the documentary does, quite well in my opinion, is layer Chris's unraveling story with text messages and videos that illuminate the nature of the conflicts in his relationship with Shanann.

It's very dangerous, of course, to look at someone and declare that they are guilty because of the way that they behave. Different people have different responses to trauma or anxiety, and saying that a smile or fidgeting is an automatic indicator of guilt can obviously lead to great harm. And yet, it is bizarre to watch the way that Watts behaves at different moments. In particular, a moment in which he "confesses" to his father at a police station, and seems to be choosing his words with very specific design and intent.

The most grueling part of the film comes after Watts gives his version of events: that Shanann killed their children, and so he had to kill her. It's a disturbing (and improbable) story, but what's more disturbing is the way that so many people flock around to defend him. It goes as far as people declaring that even if Watts did kill all three (as well as Shanann's unborn fetus), it was because she drove him to it. "How can you say that?" someone asks on a radio show or maybe a podcast. "She made him do it. She's a b*tch.". In fact, the theme of women being at fault is a thread that runs through the film. Did Chris do what he did because Shanann was controlling and crazy? Or because his mistress didn't want him to have the "burden" of kids? Or because his mother indulges him? Repeatedly--whether by people on social media, in the news, or from Chris himself--there's this idea that his hand was forced. (Don't you just hate it when people around you are unreasonable and you have to murder three people?)

The biggest revelation for me is the fact that Watts later gave a more complete confession, in which he actually admits to all three killings. The last I had heard of the story (admittedly, something I was only peripherally aware of), Watts was still claiming that Shanann has smothered the children and he killed her in a rage. Hearing him confess to the actual sequence of events is utterly chilling.

This documentary is different from most others I've seen because the creators are incredibly "invisible". Everything on screen (aside from title cards that tell us the date of whatever we are about to see) is a primary source. There are no interviews. In some ways, this is neat. You are just seeing "real" footage. There is a moment at the end of the film where the creator "personality" asserts itself, as two different title cards announce that on average, three women are killed every day in the US by their current or ex-partner; then that these crimes are mostly committed by men and are premeditated. These two title cards practically ooze with offense at the way that Chris attempted to cast Shanann as the killer of her own children and himself as the righteous protector.

This is a well-curated mix of primary sources. Simply as a timeline of a crime, what led up to it, and what came after, it works very well.