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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
(1951, Wise)



"I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason."

Set during the Cold War, The Day the Earth Stood Still begins with a flying saucer landing in the middle of Washington, DC creating all kinds of panic. When a humanoid called Klaatu (Michael Rennie), accompanied by a mysterious robot, claims to have an important message for all humanity, fear becomes the main threat among the population.

This is one of those films that always comes up in pop culture references and discussions about classic films, and understandably so. Even though some things could be seen as typical 50's scifi goofiness in the surface, the truth is that the film manages to instill an effective sense of dread and uneasiness regarding the nature of Klaatu's visit as well as what makes the robot Gort tick.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot
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Victim of The Night
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
(1951, Wise)
A film about aliens or alien abductions





Set during the Cold War, The Day the Earth Stood Still begins with a flying saucer landing in the middle of Washington, DC creating all kinds of panic. When a humanoid called Klaatu (Michael Rennie), accompanied by a mysterious robot, claims to have an important message for all humanity, fear becomes the main threat among the population.

This is one of those films that always comes up in pop culture references and discussions about classic films, and understandably so. Even though some things could be seen as typical 50's scifi goofiness in the surface, the truth is that the film manages to instill an effective sense of dread and uneasiness regarding the nature of Klaatu's visit as well as what makes the robot Gort tick.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot
Man, I absolutely love this movie.



Victim of The Night
Hey, need some help here.

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie is 2h 14m long.
The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie: Director's Cut is 1h 48m long.
I have never seen either.
I have also never seen a Director's Cut that was shorter than the Theatrical Cut.

Which should I watch?



Hey, need some help here.

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie is 2h 14m long.
The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie: Director's Cut is 1h 48m long.
I have never seen either.
I have also never seen a Director's Cut that was shorter than the Theatrical Cut.

Which should I watch?
Ive only watched the longer version, which I love even though I can see all of the extraneous footage some might think the movie would be improved by losing. But that shagginess of the narrative is part of the joy of Cassavetes. It shouldn't be restrained as common sense might insist even though this is probably what puts a lot of mainstream audiences off of him. He can let scenes go on for so long they begin to feel uncomfortable, or intrusive, or (to some) unnecessary. But all of this I think is vital towards what his films try to do.


I do know my friend, who is also a fan of the movie, didn't like the shorter cut nearly as much.


Have you seen any other Cassavetes?



Victim of The Night
Ive only watched the longer version, which I love even though I can see all of the extraneous footage some might think the movie would be improved by losing. But that shagginess of the narrative is part of the joy of Cassavetes. It shouldn't be restrained as common sense might insist even though this is probably what puts a lot of mainstream audiences off of him. He can let scenes go on for so long they begin to feel uncomfortable, or intrusive, or (to some) unnecessary. But all of this I think is vital towards what his films try to do.


I do know my friend, who is also a fan of the movie, didn't like the shorter cut nearly as much.


Have you seen any other Cassavetes?
Just Gloria and Big Trouble.
I was just thinking that if the Director himself made the cuts...





Marihuana, 1936

In this exploitation-pretending-to-be-educational film, teenager Burma (Harley Wood) and her boyfriend, Dick (Hugh McArthur) get mixed up with drug pusher Tony (Pat Carlyle), leading to multiple tragedies.

This is the kind of movie where you very much have to distinguish between watching it with any sort of sincerity, and watching it for laughs.

Taken at face value, it's pretty garbage. The things attributed to the use of marijuana are a joke and the characters are very silly.

Maybe one of my favorite things about the film is that the awful behavior on display---including Dick getting too aggressive with Burma as she tries to push him away, a young woman waving around a shotgun at a crowded party--happens before any of the characters even catch sight of any pot. These are things that they do when they are drunk, and the behaviors we see after they get high are, honestly, the kind of things that I more associate with people who have been drinking, such as going swimming while intoxicated.

Another layer of absurdity is that the characters are meant to be in high school, but not a one of them looks any younger than mid-20s, and the actor playing Dick was 31. Every time one of them talks about needing to do algebra homework it rings incredibly false. The movie also can't help but tip its exploitation agenda in an overly long sequence where several young women go skinny dipping. I would estimate that 5-10% of this movie consisted of giggling naked women scurrying around a dark beach. (Don't worry homophobes, the "high school" boys never remove a single article of clothing from their suits.)

In terms of ironic viewing, though, this is a winner. At a brisk 57 minutes, there's plenty to mock but without overstaying its welcome. The short runtime also adds to the ridiculousness on show, as a character goes from clean-cut high schooler to jaded heroin peddler in, like, 20 minutes of movie time.

"Recommended", with heavy air quotes.





Prey (2022, Dan Trachtenberg)

As someone who likes the original Predator, I have to say this movie bored me to tears. It offered me nothing in the way of surprises, or scares, or suspense, or memorable characters. Yes, we get some good cinematography with some pretty landscapes but as to the rest, forget it. Huge letdown.



Just Gloria and Big Trouble.
I was just thinking that if the Director himself made the cuts...

He made the cuts after the film was a commerical failure. Which isn't always the best reason, especially when the rest of the movies made in his typical style allow for lots of space for his actors to ramble and improvise until they completely exhaust themselves.


The two you've seen are not typical Cassavetes. They are almost normal films. When it comes to his usual more uncompromising approach, Husbands is the one that pushes his extremes to the max, where Minnie and Moskovitz is one of the tamer ones. Bookie lives in the middle of these two, but it will definitely probably test the patience of those not acclimatized to what he does.


I guess it depends how much you want to be left to the whims of a drunkard filming drunkards until something finally happens. I think that is an important element, even if it pushes against the lean and mean expectations you might have for a neo noir film. It's possible the edit works more as a genre piece than the theatrical cut





The Guilty, 2018

Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is a police officer who is on desk duty until he can appear at a hearing about his involvement in the shooting death of a teenager. Working at an emergency services call center, one evening he takes a call from a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who has been abducted by her husband. Over the course of the evening, Asger will pull out all of the stops to identify Iben's kidnapper and find the missing woman while trying to unravel the events that led to her abduction.

I do love a single-location film when it's done well, and this one manages to pull off several tense sequences and plot turns with aplomb, all while confined to the emergency call center.

Feeling very much like a play adapted to a film, the whole movie rests on the shoulders of Cedergren, the only actor playing a key character who we actually get to see. The rest of the characters--Iben the abducted woman, Michael her abductor, Mathilde her daughter, and the other dispatchers and officers in the field working on the case--are only present as voices on the other end of the phone line.

I thought that the film did a good job of balancing action-type logistics (such as trying to navigate a police cruiser to the correct vehicle on the highway) with character moments that force Asger to reflect on the kind of violence that people do to one another and why they do it. Despite never seeing Iben, Dinnage manages to craft a character who feels dimensional, and the relationship of trust that builds between Iben and Asger adds urgency to the proceedings.

I also thought that the film did a good job of accessing that feeling of anxiety and frustration when you cannot communicate with someone. We hear Iben's cheery voicemail probably a dozen or more times during the movie, and each time it's like a bell tolling doom.

I thought that the ultimate payoff with Asger's character--his own revelations about the violent act he committed--was fine, but it felt a bit tacked on to be honest. I get that it's the pivot point of his character development, but the events happening with Iben were so compelling that Asger's own personal drama just didn't feel quite as impactful.

A solid thriller, especially if you're a fan of single-location/small cast movies.

I saw a U.S. remake of this with Jake Gyllenhaal.
OK film but I bet this one is a lot better.






Down Three Dark Streets - 1954 B&W procedural with bits of mystery and noir elements to it. Broderick Crawford plays Los Angeles FBI agent John "Rip" Ripley. His partner, Agent Zack Stewart (Kenneth Tobey), is shot and killed while responding to an urgent phone call from a woman named Brenda Ralles (Suzanne Alexander). At the time of his death Stewart was handling three cases and Ripley delves into all three to find out which one led to his friends murder. One involves an interstate car theft ring, another dealt with the manhunt for a murderous federal fugitive named Joe Walpo (Joe Bassett) and the last one involves young widow Kate Martell (Ruth Roman). She's being harassed by menacing phone calls from an unknown extortionist demanding her husband's insurance settlement. The caller threatens to kidnap and kill her young daughter if she doesn't acquiesce.

Crawford is his usual taciturn/gruff self while also managing a leading man vibe as well. Ruth Roman is his costar in terms of screen time and she does a fine job of playing a harried mother. She also has one too many potential suspects in her life, any one of which could be her antagonist. That's where the mystery aspects come into play as Crawford works with the LAPD to clear the other two cases and move chess pieces off the board. The supporting cast is more than up to the task with Martha Hyer playing the fugitive's girlfriend, Marissa Pavan as the sightless wife of a wrongfully accused man, Max Showalter as an obtrusively well meaning suitor and a young Claude Akins as a thuggish ex-boxer mixed up in the stolen car case.

The dominoes fall and the bodies pile up as Crawford clears his old partners cases which eventually leads to a reckoning with the extortionist who's also the one that gunned down Agent Stewart. There's a reasonably good climax that takes place at an LA landmark and which immediately made me wonder if the folks responsible for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World based part of their plot on this. This isn't shabby at all. It's a perfectly serviceable movie and an effective thriller.

80/100



Office Space (1999)




My wife smoked a blunt before I put it on so she was laughing the whole time. I was amused the whole time. I liked the supporting characters better than the lead, not unusual for a comedy. It was good, definitely worth watching. That's as far as it goes for me.



The Gray Man - Action - 8/10 Story - 4/10
We watched The Gray Man last night, and I pretty much agree with your rating. It's perplexing to me that this film had such eye popping action scenes, but was dragged down by such a trite story.

The action and fight scenes were as good as anything in a Bond or Bourne film. But the hackneyed idiotic story made it seem almost a satire. With a better story, this could have been a top action film.

To my surprise Billy Bob Thorton co-starred in the movie, which I hadn't known before we watched it. I'm a big BBT fan, but try as he might he couldn't overcome the worn out writing of his character.

Despite his buffoonish character, Chris Evans got to let it out a bit, whereas Ryan Gosling pretty much mumbled through his part.

If you have Netflix you might give TGM a watch, but I couldn't have recommended that anyone buy movie tickets to see this one.





The Sea Beast, 2022

In this animated film, seasoned sea monster hunter Jacob (Karl Urban) is set to inherit an imposing ship from his captain (Jared Harris). But when the hunters to after a notorious large red sea monster, plucky orphan Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) stows away on the ship, and after a dangerous encounter Maisie and Jacob end up learning more about the monsters and the nature of the conflict between them and the kingdom.

About halfway through this film, I was like "Well, someone has seen Moana!". You know, sea-faring adventure with a grown man and a young woman; adorable but weird animal sidekick; themes about the balance between people and nature; giant crab monster. But despite some VERY familiar elements, I thought that The Sea Beast was an enjoyable adventure with a good message at its core.

It really helps that the voice acting is very strong. Urban deftly manages the absurd comedy and the more serious moments easily. Hator's Maisie is an engaging child character. And the two of them have an easy chemistry that helps their banter. The supporting cast is also pretty good, including Harris as the grizzled captain and Marianne Jean-Baptiste is also on hand as the stoic first mate of the ship.

Visually, I enjoyed the film. I wouldn't say that it's incredibly original, but the action scenes are easy to follow and the size and scope of the sea monsters is fun.

There are two messages in the film, and I appreciated both of them. One is simply about communication, and the other is about the fact that you can be well-intentioned and wrong at the same time. The latter message is pulled off pretty deftly. Where it would have been easy to vilify the sea monster hunters, the focus is put more on those who have driven the conflict for their own profit.

Nothing earth-shattering, but a solid family film.




11 Foreign Language movies to go

By impawards, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9829462

Dead Man Walking - (1995)

Once upon a time, long long ago, I used to work in the accounts department of St John of God Hospital - a Catholic hospital, and as such I got to know a lot of the nuns who you'd always see doing this and that (they mainly seemed to work in the hospice across the road.) Dead Man Walking came out when I was working there, and it became a very important film for all the sisters. I still remember discussing it with them. Watching it again last night, I was still impressed with it's power and unflinching attitude - that even the worst of the worst people in the world deserve dignity, and have rights - despite our craving for revenge. With that attitude it's hard to support execution as a method of punishment. Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon are brilliant in this, and I think Penn should have won the Best Actor Oscar he was nominated for (it ended up going to Nicolas Cage for his part in Leaving Las Vegas - which is nothing to be sneezed at, and not wholly undeserving of an Oscar.) In real life, the person who inspired Penn's part never showed any remorse - but you have to allow for some kind of triumph for Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) which makes the film so powerful. I enjoyed watching it last night just as much as I did the first couple of times.

9/10


By http://www.mongolfilm.ru/site/en/, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13310844

Mongol - (2007)

Really enjoyable movie - especially in it's first half where we become accustomed to life in 12th Century Mongolia. Young Temüjin's father is killed by a rival Khan when being taken to choose a wife, and although his vengeance is feared the boy is too young to be killed, according to custom. When he grows, his miseries increase in this violent land - but the older Temüjin (Tadanobu Asano) learns how to be resourceful and has a good mind for strategy. By the end of the film he's well on his way to conquering half the world as Genghis Khan. Nice scenery, fascinating plot and all-around interesting film had me really excited at first, but overall is still great. Nominated for a 'Best Foreign Language Film' Oscar.

7/10


By https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/mediaindex, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35988556

Les Misérables - (2012)

To all the lovers of this film - I'm sorry, but 158 minutes was far too long for me. There's around 30 minutes of this film put together which I find to be exciting spectacle - and 2 hours worth of wandering soliloquy, with characters singing their thoughts to themselves. Does the stage show go as long? This movie's excesses made some stretches somewhat painful, and instead of winning me over and getting me to love this musical, I ended up disliking it more than I did initially.

4/10
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By https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/mediaindex, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35988556

Les Misérables - (2012)

To all the lovers of this film - I'm sorry, but 158 minutes was far too long for me. There's around 30 minutes of this film put together which I find to be exciting spectacle - and 2 hours worth of wandering soliloquy, with characters singing their thoughts to themselves. Does the stage show go as long? This movie's excesses made some stretches somewhat painful, and instead of winning me over and getting me to love this musical, I ended up disliking it more than I did initially.

4/10

If you like the music from Les Misérables, and you want to see the best version of it that's available on DVD, watch Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert (1995). It's a special 10th Anniversary concert version of the stage show with the best of the best in each role. It runs about 2-1/2 hours, but it's worth watching every minute of it.
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By impawards, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9829462

Dead Man Walking - (1995)

Once upon a time, long long ago, I used to work in the accounts department of St John of God Hospital - a Catholic hospital, and as such I got to know a lot of the nuns who you'd always see doing this and that (they mainly seemed to work in the hospice across the road.) Dead Man Walking came out when I was working there, and it became a very important film for all the sisters. I still remember discussing it with them. Watching it again last night, I was still impressed with it's power and unflinching attitude - that even the worst of the worst people in the world deserve dignity, and have rights - despite our craving for revenge. With that attitude it's hard to support execution as a method of punishment.
I think that the most powerful art about the death penalty takes exactly this approach. Have you seen Herzog's Into the Abyss? I thought it was amazing, not only tackling the question of how we treat people who are (undeniably, sometimes even proudly) guilty of crimes, but also the toll that deliberate, state-sponsored killing takes on those involved. If you like Dead Man Walking, I think Into the Abyss makes for a great companion piece. (Though they are both very intense, so maybe not as a double feature!)



TANNA
(2015, Butler & Dean)



"This is not about you, it's about all of us."

Set in the island of the same name, Tanna follows Wawa and Dain, a couple that doesn't want to comply with this arranged marriage. This, in turn, worsens an ongoing conflict with the neighboring tribe, the Imedin, with whom Wawa was set to marry... not for her, but for the good of the tribe.

It is always interesting for me to dive into different cultures, whether it's by a book, a song, a conversation, or in this case, a film. Tanna takes you deep into the societal minutiae of the people from the island, but does so with a solid story and good, honest performances from actual natives.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot