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Uncut Gems, 2019

Howard (Adam Sandler) is a precious gems dealer in New York who owes a lot of money due to gambling, including a huge sum to a family member named Arno (Eric Bogosian). As the debt collectors become increasingly aggressive, Howard holds out hopes that he will make a huge profit off of a rare opal he has imported from Ethiopia and hopes to sell at auction. But a series of short-term decisions Howard makes in the days leading up to the auction have the potential to make or break him.

This movie got pretty glowing reviews when it first came out and I consider Good Time to be a pretty masterful mix of comedy, drama, and thriller. I thought that Uncut Gems had a lot of great stuff going for it, but it didn't quite hit me in the same way as the previous film.

To start with the good, the Safdie brothers once again show a really deft hand at creating sequences with a lot of hustle and bustle where little nuances in the interactions between characters can have momentous effect on the plot. There's also lots of handheld camera work and neon colors. Sequences go from gritty reality to cosmic abstraction several times.

The performances are also quite strong. Sandler's Howard is a desperate, sweaty man with just enough charisma and banter that you can believe he had enough going for him to build a business that would attract upscale clientele. Something that the film portrays really well is the fact that Howard will never really "win". You could hand this man a million dollars on a golden platter and a week or a month later he'd be broke and/or in debt again. He is the kind of personality that thrives on risk taking, and sooner or later you just don't survive a certain series of losses.

LaKeith Stanfield makes an impression as an associate of Kevin Garnett who is playing his own games of power and money. (Garnett, it should be said, acquits himself just fine). A real standout for me was Julia Fox as Howard's girlfriend, Julia. While at times I found Julia's attraction to Howard, um, very confusing, Fox brings good energy to her role and ends up being one of the more enjoyable characters. She looks like a young Debi Mazar, and whether she's having a screaming fight with Howard in the street or dodging debt collecting goons, she's welcome every time she's on screen.

I did struggle with the middle act of this film. Howard is on a steady, downward spiral. Every time he might catch a lucky break, something seems to thwart him. But at well over two hours, boy did that middle 40 minutes drag for me. At points I was seriously tempted to fast forward (I resisted, but barely). Frustratingly, I can't pinpoint why it was that I disconnected so much, but I felt my patience with the story plummet and just started to feel frustrated. I can understand on a theory level why we spend so much time on this carousel of little failures with Howard, but I lost my engagement with it. Things pick up again very strongly in the last 35 minutes or so, thank goodness.

Very solid, but I think Good Time is my preferred Safdie brothers film.




⬆️ I bailed out. Didn’t find it interesting or a sustainable watch.
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⬆️ I bailed out. Didnít find it interesting or a sustainable watch.
I like the way that the film was made, but it didn't grab me emotionally. I definitely think that it was overlong.





The Blue Dahlia, 1946

Johnny (Alan Ladd) returns home from war service to the horrible double-whammy that his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) is two-timing him with club owner Eddie (Howard Da Silva) AND his young son was killed in an accident when Helen drove home drunk from a party. Reeling, Johnny leaves, striking up a mutual attraction with a woman named Joyce (Veronica Lake) who gives him a ride in the rain. But when Helen is found dead, Johnny falls under suspicion. Johnny, his friends Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont), and a determined police detective (Tom Powers) all try to get to the bottom of the crime.

This was an incredibly enjoyable, twisty-turny thriller with lots of pulpy sideplots and an everyone's-a-suspect cast of characters that keep you guessing until the end.

While I wrote about The Glass Key that Ladd didn't quite seem like a right fit for his role, here he seems much more suited to the role of the slightly reserved Johnny, who gets pushed just about to his limit by his wife's cruelties. In fact, the cast of The Glass Key all seem to have shown up for this one, with Lake as the woman who turns Johnny's head and Bendix this time playing Johnny's friend and not a man determined to beat him to a pulp.

The plot itself, as mentioned, is a lot of fun. Are there some coincidences that really strain belief? Oh yes. What are the odds that a man would happen to catch a ride from the wife of the man who is sleeping with his wife? But much like stories like The Big Sleep where subplots are not completed or what have you, this isn't something that causes a problem with enjoying the film.

While the film mainly keeps you occupied with the central mystery, there is a strong recurring theme about the toll taken on the men who went off to serve in the war. Johnny's situation is terrible, of course. He comes home to an alcoholic, unfaithful wife who killed their child through her negligence. But Buzz has also come home with a plate in his head and serious memory and mood issues courtesy of a shell injury. The men get a little respect here and there for their service, but there are some grim prospects for them.

The only element I think could have been a little better was the portrayal of Helen. She is so evil that it begins to veer into over-the-top territory. She crows about having killed their son and how she's glad about it because now she can be free to party. It certainly does the job of making her more killable, but it also has the effect of totally minimizing and vilifying the only character who represents someone who was left behind. It would be hard for someone to be left alone with a young child, not knowing if their partner was coming back. I'm not saying that it's okay that Helen went wild and cheated and all that, but it would have been nice to have a bit more nuance to the character OR have another character in a similar situation.

This one kept me right up to the end and was a very enjoyable thriller.






Uncut Gems, 2019

Howard (Adam Sandler) is a precious gems dealer in New York who owes a lot of money due to gambling, including a huge sum to a family member named Arno (Eric Bogosian). As the debt collectors become increasingly aggressive, Howard holds out hopes that he will make a huge profit off of a rare opal he has imported from Ethiopia and hopes to sell at auction. But a series of short-term decisions Howard makes in the days leading up to the auction have the potential to make or break him.

This movie got pretty glowing reviews when it first came out and I consider Good Time to be a pretty masterful mix of comedy, drama, and thriller. I thought that Uncut Gems had a lot of great stuff going for it, but it didn't quite hit me in the same way as the previous film.

To start with the good, the Safdie brothers once again show a really deft hand at creating sequences with a lot of hustle and bustle where little nuances in the interactions between characters can have momentous effect on the plot. There's also lots of handheld camera work and neon colors. Sequences go from gritty reality to cosmic abstraction several times.

The performances are also quite strong. Sandler's Howard is a desperate, sweaty man with just enough charisma and banter that you can believe he had enough going for him to build a business that would attract upscale clientele. Something that the film portrays really well is the fact that Howard will never really "win". You could hand this man a million dollars on a golden platter and a week or a month later he'd be broke and/or in debt again. He is the kind of personality that thrives on risk taking, and sooner or later you just don't survive a certain series of losses.

LaKeith Stanfield makes an impression as an associate of Kevin Garnett who is playing his own games of power and money. (Garnett, it should be said, acquits himself just fine). A real standout for me was Julia Fox as Howard's girlfriend, Julia. While at times I found Julia's attraction to Howard, um, very confusing, Fox brings good energy to her role and ends up being one of the more enjoyable characters. She looks like a young Debi Mazar, and whether she's having a screaming fight with Howard in the street or dodging debt collecting goons, she's welcome every time she's on screen.

I did struggle with the middle act of this film. Howard is on a steady, downward spiral. Every time he might catch a lucky break, something seems to thwart him. But at well over two hours, boy did that middle 40 minutes drag for me. At points I was seriously tempted to fast forward (I resisted, but barely). Frustratingly, I can't pinpoint why it was that I disconnected so much, but I felt my patience with the story plummet and just started to feel frustrated. I can understand on a theory level why we spend so much time on this carousel of little failures with Howard, but I lost my engagement with it. Things pick up again very strongly in the last 35 minutes or so, thank goodness.

Very solid, but I think Good Time is my preferred Safdie brothers film.

I like Uncut Gems quite a bit as well, but like you, I also prefer Good Time, even if its ending is more abrupt.
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Loved that movie! Wasn't difficult to tell who Kevin Garnett was. lol



Thor: Love and Thunder. I thought it pretty awful.
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All secrets are safe with this man, because none are as deadly to him as his own. His secret is that he is Richard Kimble. (The Fugitive - Conspiracy of Silence)



Maybe I'll keep an eye out for it. Not a huge 'watching entire horror franchises' guy, but since it's just one film, it might be easier to make time for it.
It's better than most horror sequels. I'll die on that hill. I mean, both Mick Garris and Frank Darabont wrote the script. That counts for something.



I can't remember the Fly sequel since I watched it when it came out and my kid brain didn't retain it (I think I liked it as a...12 year old?). But as for Psycho 2


-is it really ignored, at least anymore? I find it is generally considered as a 'overlooked classic' at this point. Sure, not canon, and people not cool enough for the horror club might not be aware of its greatness, but certainly not ignored. At least not Fly 2 levels of invisibility.

-whoever directed it was no Hitchcock, but that thing oozes style and personality. It of course in many ways needs the original to prop up a lot of its ideas and transgressions, but for the most part, it holds up as a piece of film pretty well.

-is it really that much more exploitative than the original? I'd argue it might have even been less so. Hitchcock's version was kind of one of the first (or maybe even the first) mainstream film to go right into the (at least at the time) gutter. On screen violence the likes which had never been seen before, absurd manifestations of mental illness, cross dressing, it oozed sex and women in black bras, and let's not forget toilets. Never forget the toilets.


When it comes to Fly 2, it's actually a movie I frequently forget even exists. And I have no memory of that gif happening in that movie. But if it is any indication, it must be the shit. That guys face just slides off like a yet to settle lasagne. I watched it, partially nauseated, partially in wonder, over and over again for like ten minutes last night. You can become lost in it.
- Yes, it's still ignored but it IS on an upswing. I suspect it'll be viewed on par with Halloween 3: Season of the Witch in a few years. For reference, here's the approximate amount of IMDb ratings, which I think gives a decent assessment of popularity:

The Fly 2: 23k
Psycho 2: 25k
Halloween 3: 55k

- Yes, it does ooze with style. And The Fly 2 is remarkably well made with among the greatest gore set pieces of the 80s.

- Psycho certainly pushed boundaries but Hitchcock's brand was always pushing the envelope mixed with a great deal of artistry and elegance. At the point Psycho 2 was made, it's reputation as a respectable masterpiece was secured, so blending that film with slasher levels of gore and violence certainly placed it as "more exploitative." The 3rd one is easily more stylish and smuttier.

That Fly 2 was a childhood favorite. I preferred it as a kid and it may be partially why I am fascinated by gore effects. I rewatched it a few years ago after Cronenberg's was solidly a favorite, expecting sacrilege, but was very happy to see that it fits in nicely with the other Darabont scribbed horror joints, The Blob and NOES 3.



it fits in nicely with the other Darabont scribbed horror joints, The Blob and NOES 3.

Well, I do mildly love both of those, so I should give a chance again sometime.



10 Foreign Language movies to go

By 20th Century Fox - https://www.atomtickets.com/movies/m...express/223139, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54191771

Murder on the Orient Express - (2017)

A perfectly average version of Agatha Christie's famous tale, full to the brim with a-listers who get to act like caricatures - some with good reason. We seem to be getting it because it's what Kenneth Branagh wants to do more than something we'd all like to see. It's all nice and done right - but in a cinematic era stuffed full of remakes and reboots, I don't understand what the point is - except for Branagh and the actors having a good time.

6/10


Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8194019

Brewster's Millions - (1985)

Another remake here - the oft-repeated Brewster's Millions which was kind of converted into a vehicle for Richard Pryor in a lazy way - he was a talent who was frequently misused and never quite found the right screenplays or projects. It's fun to watch him go through $30 million (a lot more in 1985 than it is now) without being able to tell anyone the reason. To others he seems to be the most reckless and silly spender on earth. Pryor just doesn't seem to be able to do anything with the rigid guidelines of this story, and as such his improvisation is hampered.

Just imagine winning one of those big lottery prizes you hear about these days. I think there was one in the U.S. recently which topped $1 billion. Room enough to live out your most far-fetched fantasy and still have enough to fall back on.

5/10


By Moviepostershop.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4676922

No Retreat, No Surrender - (1985)

No Retreat, No Surrender is a crazy, crazy low budget movie that a friend introduced to me a few years ago - and every so often I revisit it. It's about a karate-loving kid who moves to a new town, and when faced with adversity finds the ghost of Bruce Lee to train him in the way of martial arts. He then faces off against a Russian (played by a young Jean-Claude Van Damme) who has taken all before him, and is backed by a group of mafia figures. The film has a kind of "Mac and Me" bad but entertaining vibe, and plenty of moments that take you unawares. It's so fun that it's hard to rate - the film's quality is around 2/10, but the entertainment factor is more 8/10 - that averages out to...

5/10
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Latest Review : Adaptation (2002)





The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946

Frank (John Garfield) is a drifter who impulsively takes a job at a roadside cafe after getting an eyeful of the beautiful Cora (Lana Turner). But it turns out that Cora is the wife of the owner of the cafe, the older, cheerful Nick (Cecil Kellaway). As the sexual tension between Nick and Cora mounts, they start to think about how much easier things would be if Nick was out of the way . . .

I've started this film probably three or four times before and it never quite stuck. This time I caught the momentum of it and it was really enjoyable.

There are a lot of twists and turns to the typical plot that really make this story stand out. Probably the best innovation is an initial failed attempt to kill Nick that is foiled by an unexpected power outage. Usually in a story like the the couple would fall in love in the first act, kill the husband in the second act, then deal with the fallout in the third. The failed attempt adds an interesting wrinkle to everything. Obviously you can't try again after one unfortunate "accident" . . . or can you?

The other dynamic that I really enjoyed was the push pull between Frank and Cora. Instead of one of them being the cold-blooded leader (and we know that usually that would be Cora), we see them go back and forth. One of them will be certain that they should commit the murder, then the other will have doubts, then vice verse. While Cora is ultimately seen as the more ruthless of the two, I liked the balance between their characters. Cora is colder, but she's not some caricature.

This is further solidified by what Cora explicitly (and demonstrably) shows us about what she actually wants. She doesn't just want to roll around in fancy clothes and cash. She wants to run a successful business. She wants respect. Yes, she wants a sexy lover her own age, but it's not her priority. What ultimately breaks Cora is when Nick decides---without asking her opinion at all---that they will sell the diner and move to Canada so that Cora can care for his invalid sister.

Now, pause for a moment. I'm not endorsing murder as as solution to marital problems. It's certainly true that Cora could get a divorce, work her way back up. She is clearly disgusted by the idea of having to do this. But at the same time, she has put in work to keep the diner functioning. The fact that Nick feels comfortable totally changing their lifestyle and committing Cora to the role of caretaker/nurse is enraging. As the sole owner of the diner, he has the only say in whether or not it is sold. While she does have recourse in the form of cutting her losses, we see the way that Cora's gender and social position make her vulnerable to the loss of autonomy.

This gives just enough friction to the character of Nick that the decision to try and kill him, while not good or right, is at least understandable. I'm not sure that I could say I was rooting for Cora and Frank, but I felt for them and understood how they got to the place that they did.

The portion of the film that is taken up with legal proceedings is also incredibly engaging. Hume Cronyn absolutely owns the screen in every scene where he appears as Cora's sly, dryly humorous lawyer who manages to stay one step ahead of the district attorney and his own client. But what the story does very wisely is not end on a verdict, but rather take the story back to the characters and their relationship with one another.

Setting aside even the murder plot in its details, what builds and builds from the beginning to the end of the film is the parallel paths of love and mistrust between the two. After all: once you know that someone would lie and kill, can you ever fully trust them? Garfield and Turner do a fantastic job with this element.

No notes!






The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946

Frank (John Garfield) is a drifter who impulsively takes a job at a roadside cafe after getting an eyeful of the beautiful Cora (Lana Turner). But it turns out that Cora is the wife of the owner of the cafe, the older, cheerful Nick (Cecil Kellaway). As the sexual tension between Nick and Cora mounts, they start to think about how much easier things would be if Nick was out of the way . . .

I've started this film probably three or four times before and it never quite stuck. This time I caught the momentum of it and it was really enjoyable.

There are a lot of twists and turns to the typical plot that really make this story stand out. Probably the best innovation is an initial failed attempt to kill Nick that is foiled by an unexpected power outage. Usually in a story like the the couple would fall in love in the first act, kill the husband in the second act, then deal with the fallout in the third. The failed attempt adds an interesting wrinkle to everything. Obviously you can't try again after one unfortunate "accident" . . . or can you?

The other dynamic that I really enjoyed was the push pull between Frank and Cora. Instead of one of them being the cold-blooded leader (and we know that usually that would be Cora), we see them go back and forth. One of them will be certain that they should commit the murder, then the other will have doubts, then vice verse. While Cora is ultimately seen as the more ruthless of the two, I liked the balance between their characters. Cora is colder, but she's not some caricature.

This is further solidified by what Cora explicitly (and demonstrably) shows us about what she actually wants. She doesn't just want to roll around in fancy clothes and cash. She wants to run a successful business. She wants respect. Yes, she wants a sexy lover her own age, but it's not her priority. What ultimately breaks Cora is when Nick decides---without asking her opinion at all---that they will sell the diner and move to Canada so that Cora can care for his invalid sister.

Now, pause for a moment. I'm not endorsing murder as as solution to marital problems. It's certainly true that Cora could get a divorce, work her way back up. She is clearly disgusted by the idea of having to do this. But at the same time, she has put in work to keep the diner functioning. The fact that Nick feels comfortable totally changing their lifestyle and committing Cora to the role of caretaker/nurse is enraging. As the sole owner of the diner, he has the only say in whether or not it is sold. While she does have recourse in the form of cutting her losses, we see the way that Cora's gender and social position make her vulnerable to the loss of autonomy.

This gives just enough friction to the character of Nick that the decision to try and kill him, while not good or right, is at least understandable. I'm not sure that I could say I was rooting for Cora and Frank, but I felt for them and understood how they got to the place that they did.

The portion of the film that is taken up with legal proceedings is also incredibly engaging. Hume Cronyn absolutely owns the screen in every scene where he appears as Cora's sly, dryly humorous lawyer who manages to stay one step ahead of the district attorney and his own client. But what the story does very wisely is not end on a verdict, but rather take the story back to the characters and their relationship with one another.

Setting aside even the murder plot in its details, what builds and builds from the beginning to the end of the film is the parallel paths of love and mistrust between the two. After all: once you know that someone would lie and kill, can you ever fully trust them? Garfield and Turner do a fantastic job with this element.

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Yeah, that one's very good.



matt72582's Avatar
Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses


The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946

Frank (John Garfield) is a drifter who impulsively takes a job at a roadside cafe after getting an eyeful of the beautiful Cora (Lana Turner). But it turns out that Cora is the wife of the owner of the cafe, the older, cheerful Nick (Cecil Kellaway). As the sexual tension between Nick and Cora mounts, they start to think about how much easier things would be if Nick was out of the way . . .

I've started this film probably three or four times before and it never quite stuck. This time I caught the momentum of it and it was really enjoyable.

There are a lot of twists and turns to the typical plot that really make this story stand out. Probably the best innovation is an initial failed attempt to kill Nick that is foiled by an unexpected power outage. Usually in a story like the the couple would fall in love in the first act, kill the husband in the second act, then deal with the fallout in the third. The failed attempt adds an interesting wrinkle to everything. Obviously you can't try again after one unfortunate "accident" . . . or can you?

The other dynamic that I really enjoyed was the push pull between Frank and Cora. Instead of one of them being the cold-blooded leader (and we know that usually that would be Cora), we see them go back and forth. One of them will be certain that they should commit the murder, then the other will have doubts, then vice verse. While Cora is ultimately seen as the more ruthless of the two, I liked the balance between their characters. Cora is colder, but she's not some caricature.

This is further solidified by what Cora explicitly (and demonstrably) shows us about what she actually wants. She doesn't just want to roll around in fancy clothes and cash. She wants to run a successful business. She wants respect. Yes, she wants a sexy lover her own age, but it's not her priority. What ultimately breaks Cora is when Nick decides---without asking her opinion at all---that they will sell the diner and move to Canada so that Cora can care for his invalid sister.

Now, pause for a moment. I'm not endorsing murder as as solution to marital problems. It's certainly true that Cora could get a divorce, work her way back up. She is clearly disgusted by the idea of having to do this. But at the same time, she has put in work to keep the diner functioning. The fact that Nick feels comfortable totally changing their lifestyle and committing Cora to the role of caretaker/nurse is enraging. As the sole owner of the diner, he has the only say in whether or not it is sold. While she does have recourse in the form of cutting her losses, we see the way that Cora's gender and social position make her vulnerable to the loss of autonomy.

This gives just enough friction to the character of Nick that the decision to try and kill him, while not good or right, is at least understandable. I'm not sure that I could say I was rooting for Cora and Frank, but I felt for them and understood how they got to the place that they did.

The portion of the film that is taken up with legal proceedings is also incredibly engaging. Hume Cronyn absolutely owns the screen in every scene where he appears as Cora's sly, dryly humorous lawyer who manages to stay one step ahead of the district attorney and his own client. But what the story does very wisely is not end on a verdict, but rather take the story back to the characters and their relationship with one another.

Setting aside even the murder plot in its details, what builds and builds from the beginning to the end of the film is the parallel paths of love and mistrust between the two. After all: once you know that someone would lie and kill, can you ever fully trust them? Garfield and Turner do a fantastic job with this element.

No notes!




Have you seen Visconti's "Ossession"?



Have you seen Visconti's "Ossession"?
Not yet. I know it's one of the 4 adaptations of the novel and is pretty well regarded.

It's not steaming on any of my services currently.



matt72582's Avatar
Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses
Not yet. I know it's one of the 4 adaptations of the novel and is pretty well regarded.

It's not steaming on any of my services currently.

Ah ok. It's not one of my favorite Visconti, but it's one of the first neo-realist movies. I highly recommend his other movies, though, like "Beautiful" (very relevant today - child actors being pushed by parents) or in Italian "Bellissima".. "Rocco and His Brothers" is good, despite Alain Delon not speaking Italian. But I think my favorite of his is the very neo-realistic "La Tera Trema" (The Earth Trembles) about a family of fishermen/women who finally try to escape a shady businessman and go independent. Big fish eat small fish.



Victim of The Night
Thor: Love and Thunder. I thought it pretty awful.
I used to be a big MCU fan.
But you are absolutely right.
In fact, it's part of the reason I'm no longer a big MCU fan.