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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.

Cosmoball (Dzhanik Fayziev, 2020)
+ 5/10
Paris Honeymoon (Frank Tuttle, 1939)
5.5/10
Two Distant Strangers (Travon Free & Martin Desmond Roe, 2020)
6.5/10
Valley of Souls (Nicolás Rincón Gille, 2019)
6/10

Gorgeous widescreen photography and a powerful performance by José Arley de Jesús Carvallido Lobo highlight this overlong account of a fisherman trying to find his sons' bodies which were dumped in a river by a Colombian paramilitary group.
The Star Maker (Roy Del Ruth, 1939)
6/10
Cuatro paredes AKA Four Walls (Matthew Porterfield, 2021)
5/10
Duffy's Tavern (Hal Walker, 1945)
+ 6/10
Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995)
6.5/10

Two lost souls (man trying to literally drink himself to death Nicholas Cage and whore Elisabeth Shue) find a few minutes of true love.
The Hell-Fated Courtesan (Noboru Tanaka, 1973)
5/10
The Return (Malene Choi, 2018)
6/10
T11 Incomplete (Suzanne Guacci, 2020)
5/10
Night in Paradise (Park Hoon-jung, 2020)
6/10

Occasionally exciting and lyrical thriller is just way too long.
Spring Parade (Henry Koster, 1940)
6/10
Cold Blooded Killers AKA Killer Rose (Rickey Bird Jr., 2021)
4+/10
Red, Hot and Blue (John Farrow, 1949)
6/10
Lies My Father Told Me (Jan Kadar, 1975)
8/10

Lovely, intense, funny coming-of-age tale of Jeffrey Lynas learning from his grandfather Yossi Yadin in 1920s Montreal.
Paper Lives (Can Ulkay, 2021)
6/10
The Black Doll (Otis Garrett, 1934)
5/10
City of Lies (Brad Furman, 2018)
6/10
One Night in Miami... (Regina King, 2020)
- 7/10 Second Viewing

On February 25, 1964, Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) get together to talk about their friendship and the state of their world.
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Big Hero 6, 2014

Hiro (Ryan Potter) is an incredibly bright teenage boy, living with his aunt (Myah Rudolph) and older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney). Hiro invents a powerful new technology in an attempt to get accepted into an elite science college, but when his invention is stolen and he loses his brother in a tragic accident, Hiro teams up with Baymax (Scott Adsit, sounding like a ringer for David Cross in my opinion!), a medical robot designed by Tadashi.

I had avoided watching this film for a long while just because it looked really generic. And while it did turn out to be pretty formulaic, there was still enough going for it that I enjoyed the ride.

The only real downside to the film, honestly, is just how utterly predictable it is. I mean everything from the villain, to the major events, to the themes just feel so overly telegraphed. As one character runs toward an emergency and drops something, I sarcastically thought "There, you can keep that as a symbol of how much you miss my character because I am obviously about to die". Hiro's arc is beyond cliched, as is the revelation he must have to move his character forward.

But where the film lacks originality in structure, it has many little joys along the way. He may have been created out of some consumer-oriented focus group or something, but Baymax is flippin' adorable. One character's derisive description of him as a "balloon robot" is on point, and it's just a really good character design. He's fun to look at even when he's just standing there doing nothing. The "gentle giant" is a staple of animated films for kids, but I still found myself laughing at some of the physical comedy, such as when Hiro yells at Baymax to run from danger and Baymax begins taking slow, shuffling steps forward before calmly observing, "I am not fast."

The character designs are all fine and the voice acting is pretty good. The writing is too shallow for any of the secondary characters to make much of an impression, but they are all pleasant enough.

I probably wouldn't seek it out again, but it was fun to watch. And honestly if I had a kid who wanted to watch it over and over it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.






Katzelmacher, 1969

A group of friends in their mid-twenties (including actresses Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann, later to star in Bitter Tears of Petra van Kant!) laze around their neighborhood, sleeping with each other and getting into petty arguments. Their equilibrium is upset when a Greek immigrant (Fassbinder himself) lands in their midst.

I could probably write the words "unhealthy co-dependence" about pretty much everything I have seen thus far from Fassbinder, and this film is no exception. I think that something that he captures very well is the way that people can be miserable--as friends, but especially as lovers/romantic partners--and find themselves in a sort of holding pattern. The characters in this film don't seem to like each other all that much, or when they do it tends to be in a clingy way. They are dismissive or verbally and physically abusive toward one another. Yet it is only the arrival of someone new that throws things off balance.

This isn't a great film. There were definitely parts that dragged and moments where I sort of zoned out. I think that many of the scenes are intentionally underwhelming, as fits the lives that the main characters are leading.

In both a positive and a negative way, many sequences in this film felt like a strange mix between a movie and a play. I really liked how frequently Fassbinder returned to the exact same shot---several friends sitting together on a railing, or a repeated shot of two of the characters strolling arm in arm--to reinforce the redundant nature of the day to day life of the characters.

I have to mention that there were some parts that almost too perfectly fit what many people would think of in a negative way as an "art film". I'm specifically talking about scenes like the one in which two nude lovers kneel together on a bed in front of a totally blank white background. The man, his back to the camera, asks if she likes sex with him. With an almost expressionless face, she says she just does what she needs to survive. The image is nicely composed and framed, but it really pushes that boundary of serious versus absurd.

Now that I'm several Fassbinders deep, there are two things that really strike me. And I have not read much formal writing about these things (I want to watch more of his stuff before reading essays), so I apologize if these takes are either (1) really obvious or (2) really off-the-wall.

First, regarding what some mentioned as criticism of the way his female characters are written, I kind of have to wonder if people levying that criticism feel that his male characters are much better. While it is true that there seems to be a pattern of women who are clingy and who are attracted to abusive or loserish men . . . much of the same seems to be true of the male characters, right? With maybe the exception of Ali in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, his male characters seem like they are a total mess. Second, it is really interesting to watch so many films in which the sexualized gaze is applied equally, if not more, toward men. Fassbinder seems to undress his male characters as often as his female characters (and the male characters are actually presented as desirable, unlike most uses of male nudity which is for either comedic or scary purposes), and it really calls into stark relief the way that so many other films contrive staging of similar scenes so that only one person (ie the female character) is filmed with that sexualized framing.

I am definitely enjoying this odyssey through his films and look forward to the next few.




Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)



While auteur directors often make personal films, sometimes even based on real events from their lives, in the end, almost all of them create quietly planned fiction. And then you have documentary filmmaking and most of the time even if the filmmaker gets so much into the case that it becomes personal to them, they can still distance themselves from the case, provided it's not about their close ones. And then you have Dear Zachary, an unquiet, subjective film, packed with grief and rage (which is understandable given the circumstances) but also a film that lets that grief and rage take over and douse any sort of nuance or artistry, which potentially might have been there. In the end, we are left with the director hitting us on the head with a hammer while screaming "Bitch!". This is an apt display of his feelings but not an apt way of filmmaking.

Dear Zachary's subjectivity stems from the director's closeness to Zachary and clogs the filmmaker's view on the case, letting out too much sadness and anger that do the film more bad than good. The frenetic, manic editing is as terrible as it is manipulative. At times it is just pure aggression and cheesy effects that undermine rather than strengthen the impact of whatever is being said or shown. Also, a lot of crying, which would have been cut in any professional documentary. Obviously, the film is one-sided but that's OK since it's hard to expect any sort of objectivity from a director-friend. Still, I'm not sure demonizing a mentally ill person is a good path to take. It's not surprising Zachary's family would hate her and call her names. They're entitled to, for lack of better vocabulary, but if this documentary were made by somebody from the outside, I think they would cut all the name-calling, which does absolutely nothing except for imbuing rage and hate. This is not necessary. The viewer already feels bad from the sheer impact of the story itself.

In addition to that, a thriller-like twist in such a documentary is morally questionable. Especially when you make a tribute to your friend and his family. Obviously, it's powerful and does its job and would have been OK in an HBO-style doc made by an outsider, but in this context... I'm not sure. Also, I'm not exactly sure what this documentary tries to achieve (and I'm pretty sure the filmmaker wasn't sure himself, as he points out he changed who this doc was for a couple of times). I don't think it works as a memoir for the family because it would probably bring much more sadness and anger than happy memories. Cultivating bad memories, hate and excruciating sadness is hardly therapeutic Even a PowerPoint presentation with some happy pictures would be a better alternative to that. Then, you have the indictment of the law system, which is the only OK reason for the documentary to exist, and apparently, that was the point given the very ending. But then the doc does not present quite enough law info about the case. It just skims over it. As a matter of fact, Dear Zachary does not present quite enough info about anything. It's quite a mess of a film. No doubt meaningful to people close to Andrew & Zachary, and apparently tears-inducing to many, many watchers, given the high ratings, but to me, the handling of the subject totally killed whatever emotional reaction potentially was there.

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Frantic (1988, Roman Polanski)

The initial two-thirds or so of this film are mostly very good - the mystery and the investigative element of the plot are very compelling, Polanski does a fine job creating the atmosphere of helpless alienation and slowly mounting desperation surrounding the main character (Harrison Ford). The final third, where the mystery gets unraveled, is where the film loses its bearings and gets a little ridiculous, crowned off by an oddly messy ending. But there are also a few genuinely fascinating, delirious, half surreal, half humorous moments strewn throughout the film that I really loved (like the hilariously awkward nightclub dance sequence, or the rooftop scene).

Overall, a very good neo-noir mystery thriller - not without its flaws but definitely entertaining.



Moxie
PG-13 2021 ‧ Drama/Music ‧ 1h 51m

It was great.
Rating?
4 stars?
Yeah?





(David Cronenberg, 1983)

Pretty straight forward, kinda feels episodic in a way. I've learned there is a series based on the book as well.
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The Courier (2020)

Set in the Cold War leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, this is an old fashioned espionage thriller-- the type of tale that in recent times has typically been produced in a multi episode TV series format. From a true story, Benedict Cumberbatch plays an English businessman who is recruited by Britain's MI6 to travel to Moscow posing as an international trade figure in order to extract military secrets from a Russian businessman privy to information leading up to the plot and placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba, which are a threat to the U.S.

Cumberbatch is superb as salesman Greville Wayne who reluctantly agrees to the task despite being intimidated and fearful about his ability to bring it off. Likewise Merab Ninidze as the Russian spy Oleg Penkovsky inhabits the role with perfect credibility.

The writing by Tom O'Connor however is middle of the road, and feels overly familiar. The story on its own holds ones interest, but the screenplay could have used a few more examples of suspense and intrigue. The story stayed pretty close to the facts which are tense enough by themselves. Although their relative blandness is absorbed into the action, the MI6 officers and the CIA representative are cookie-cutter characters. Rachel Brosnahan is miscast in her role as a high placed CIA officer, mis-written as a female when in 1962 it would certainly have been a man. Her portrayal makes her seem like something out of a Mary Tyler Moore show.

It's always tricky to balance the representation of true life espionage dramas with cinematic drama, but here the story stayed pretty close to the facts which are fascinating enough by themselves. It's also impressive that the producers held it down to a PG-13 rating, avoiding all the tiresome gore, gutter language, and deviant sex tropes.

The film is a satisfactory historical espionage thriller with good acting, but it somewhat missed the opportunity to be a remarkable picture.

Doc's rating: 6/10



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Palm Springs (2020)

I didn't think I was going to like this when it started out, but it grew on me. An interesting take on the time loop rom-com premise. I would have ended it a scene earlier though.




In The Shadow Of The Moon, 2019 (D)

A movie about a killer that comes back every 9 years and kills people with a mysterious new isotope.

The concept is silly in the same way Looper is. It overcomplicates itself for the sake of getting a plot out of an idea that didn't quite warrant it.

The movie is pretty long and largely uneventful. It jumps 9 years at a time, following the same guy every time. There just isn't that much meat on the bones. There's only one thing to be interested in and it pretty much only gets interesting near the end of each segment. Also a bit of a tonal whiplash in many parts, and super heavy-handed at the end. It's also one of those movies you can piece together during the slow parts at your own leisure, even if it's not something you usually do. It's not that mysterious.



LA DOLCE VITA
(1960, Fellini)
A drama film



"The great thing is to burn, and not to freeze."

The above line is uttered by an artist, almost inadvertently, during a party showcased during the middle "episode" of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. But the relevance of that line and that philosophy is central to the film, which follows journalist and womanizer Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), as he navigates through Rome's nightlife and lifestyle of the rich and famous.

The film's story, which is split into seven separate vignettes, is said to represent the Seven Deadly Sins, or the Seven Hills of Rome, or the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. But while I try to make sense of all those symbolisms, on the surface the film features Marcello struggling with his relationship with volatile fiancée Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) as he also goes about his job as a gossip columnist and socialite, while mingling with celebrities and wallowing in the excesses of sex and drinking.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot and the HOF24.
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La Dolce Vita is probably my favorite from Fellini and is one of those monumental films that every now and then, a great filmmaker tries to make “their” version (Roma from Cuaron would be a recent example). Fellini has a talent for making his films feel authentically alive, even when they dip into the surreal and absurd. La Dolce Vita is stunningly alive.

For my own watches, one that has stood out to me is Sergeant Rutledge. It’s a John Ford western/court room drama starring Woody Strode as a Buffalo Soldier accused of raping and murdering a white woman. It’s a gripping, fascinating and well conceived watch (especially for its era) as one can see Ford wrestling with the racial narratives of the genre. He still can’t escape forming a white centric narrative around the defense, played by Jeffrey Hunter, nor does he manage to go full revisionist, but it’s clearly Ford grappling with the mythologizing of the west that he helped perpetuate and trying to reframe the narrative to be more inclusive.

It may not be Ford’s best but it’s surely his most underappreciated and among his most complex and interesting.*

Strode’s work is also among his strongest. Not as consistent as some of his supporting work but he hits hard when it counts.

A great, seemingly forgotten western from the classic western master. It’s currently on the Criterion Channel.



LA DOLCE VITA
(1960, Fellini)
A drama film
The above line is uttered by an artist, almost inadvertently, during a party showcased during the middle "episode" of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. But the relevance of that line and that philosophy is central to the film, which follows journalist and womanizer Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), as he navigates through Rome's nightlife and lifestyle of the rich and famous.

The film's story, which is split into seven separate vignettes, is said to represent the Seven Deadly Sins, or the Seven Hills of Rome, or the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. But while I try to make sense of all those symbolisms, on the surface the film features Marcello struggling with his relationship with volatile fiancée Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) as he also goes about his job as a gossip columnist and socialite, while mingling with celebrities and wallowing in the excesses of sex and drinking.

Grade:
One of my favorite movies. Period. It completely knocked me out when I saw it in 1962, and it contributed not only to changing my own burgeoning philosophy, but to a whole generation's.

It's pretty tame today in comparison to most of the excesses in modern films, but it had an enormous impact when it came out. It was in the first wave of the Italian invasion that was to loosen up people's morals. The young generation was in the process of changing from Playboy and Cal Tjader "cool", to Hippie, and this film was a palpable catalyst.

I enjoyed your review. Don't know why I never reviewed the film, but I'll get around to it one day..