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Black Widow - Initial Reaction

Well, I looked forward to this movie for like 2 years. And tonight, I saw it, my first movie in a theater since The Invisible Man in February of last year.
I'm honestly not sure what I thought about it.
I would say that it had a lot of heart and that unlike a lot of Marvel movies, it had time to breathe. And when it did, it took advantage of that time to surprisingly effective character and emotional effect. The sisterhood aspect was particularly strong. As was Florence Pugh in general. She really surprised me with this. I've seen her work and I know how good she is, but I thought this might be over her head or at least out of her wheelhouse. Yet she was as convincing as anyone in the film, including Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, and Scarlett herself.
But the script. I mean, did this story even need to be told? And I don't mean from a "Black Widow shoulda had her own movie by now" perspective I mean a "was this story, this particular one, actually worth telling?" perspective.
Again the character and emotional aspects of the film work but the actual plot is convoluted, probably unnecessarily so, and almost ends up coming off like a really high-budget extended-episode of Agents Of Shield. I'm really not sure the MacGuffin, which seems dubious from the start, plays at all. And the resolution of the MacGuffin left me pretty limp. Some of the action scenes were good particularly a prison-break sequence, but even that was left feeling very distilled or maybe just never really inspired in the first place. The film goes to pretty achey lengths not to show a drop of blood to the Disney audience, despite the rather intense violence that occurs and the fact that both of the main characters were assassins. And honestly, some of the movie seems to contradict what we've seen in the previous films, even though Marvel is usually so meticulous about making everything fit together. One wonders, did they have too much time with this film or did they just not write a very good script.
I hope I will feel better about it in the morning or maybe after a re-watch but, I dunno, I came away feeling like Marvel did some of its best work yet in the emotional territory of this film but made a movie that simply didn't need to be made. Perhaps as a too-little-too-late apology to Scarlett.

I've been pretty excited for Shang-Chi but this film, in the wake of the already rather hit and miss nature of the MCU going back to Doctor Strange, has me a little worried about any future MCU films. Could it finally be unravelling? Or do I just need to take a deep breath and sleep on this movie?




(2021 film)



SF = Z






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



Black Widow (2021)



I think Black Widow deserved a movie, probably about 10 years ago. Rectifying that by making one after Endgame with something set before Infinity War which sort of promises to delve into her past but then doesn't exactly do it was a bit of a weird choice.

The plot, the tone and the editing were all over the place. It's about an hour in before there are even any attempts at humour, and none of those landed for me. The back story is actually kind of upsetting, which makes the attempts at humour about it worse. I just don't think they pulled off the tone. It all lurches joylessly from fight scene to explosion to fight scene.

I expect to suspend disbelief a certain amount in a superhero movie, but pheromone force fields, magic mcguffin dust which resets behaviour conditioning and characters who can't normally fly basically flying through the air without any explanation just seemed silly. The reset dust just sort of undermined the whole idea of conditioning and free will and making the right choices that the movie could have tried to explore.
Well, I mostly agree with you. I thought the plot was just... was this really the best they could come up with? I thought the gravity of the backstory was good but then when they try to go to the Marvel Fun Times it does feel kinda weird. The big action sequences and the convoluted-but-dumb plot seemed to actually drag down the fairly good dramatic storyline that ran through the film, which was bolstered by good actors doing their job across the board. But the movie isn't put together right, when we finally meet the villain it doesn't really pay off and then the resolution of the B-plot or C-plot or maybe it was the A-plot and the villain was the B-plot or was the family-story the A-plot...? I dunno, it seems like a mess. But the resolution of the Red Room plot was like TV-episode weak. And another weird tonal thing was "How do we make a Disney movie about assassins?" So they're having extreme violence (like an early, rather visceral, straight-up murder) but cut away quickly or show the violence from angles where nothing too rough is really seen and then maybe just a drop or two of blood on somebody's face or a bloody nose after horrific beatings.
And when did Natasha get her super-powers? She is clearly super-human in this film, not peak-human, super-human. She endures things no human could survive and gets up to walk away or even fight (including one particularly egregious fall that would kill any living thing on Earth).
I dunno, I'm hoping I like it better tomorrow but man, for a movie that made me feel as much as it did, I sure left feeling let-down.



Doug literally orders her off of a menu in the scene where he is making choices about his fantasy.

In fact, she HAS to be a fantasy woman because otherwise
WARNING: spoilers below
the whole sequence where they are trying to convince Doug that he's in a dream wouldn't work
. Her being a fantasy is essential to a big part of the film.

The person who thinks he's a sex machine is the other very sexy lady.

I didn't mean key players in the sense of main characters. I was criticizing the limit of imagination shown in how the film envisions the future and remarking on the fact that in this portrayal of the future, men are still in charge of all the important stuff and they are the vast, vast majority of the spies/toughs as well. There is one woman in the agency, and not only is she somebody's "girl," her job is to pretend to be a wife (complete with all wifely duties).

Agree to disagree. Did the film have a single important female character who didn't have sex with the male lead?

Don't get me wrong, I liked Melina and appreciated her very active role in the action in the latter half of the film. But doing better than other people who were doing horribly does not mean you did well. Like the shot where Doug punches out Lori and then the camera conveniently comes to rest on a shot of her spandex-clad butt. Very progressive, A+.
I know Melina is obviously
WARNING: spoilers below
supposed to be a "fantasy woman" if you go with the most likely interpretation of the film's story (that it's all happening inside Quaid's head); the point I'm making is that she's not supposed to be some sort of improbably, stereotypically "hot" fantasy woman like you claimed earlier, which is a significant subversion of gender roles in Hollywood, because Recall actually has an in-film justification to portray her in that manner (because of the strong possibility that it's literally all just a male fantasy), and chooses to do the opposite instead, and even goes out of its way to highlight that subversion on multiple occasions (like how, even when she's posing as a "prostitute", and would have an excuse to show more skin, she's still dressed quite modestly anyway).

As for the points about how men are still mostly in charge in the film's future, and how the only woman in the agency has to pretend to be someone's wife, I think the former is ignoring just how much Melina contributes to the film (because, again, she saves the day just as much as her male counterpart does, if not even more so), while the whole point of the latter detail is that the agency is weaponizing female stereotypes in order to sneak an elite assassin into the home of one of their targets, who turns out to be a woman who gives a character played by one of cinema's biggest all-time "alpha male" actors some serious trouble in both armed and hand-to-hand combat, which is the opposite of a regressive gender role for her (and Melina, who is arguably the lead female character in the film, never has sex with Quaid, so that complaint doesn't make much sense either). Anyway, I'd also respond point about the supposed male gaze intentions of the shot of Lori's "spandex-clad butt", but this post is already going on a bit long for a non-review, so I'll address that later if I have the space.




Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8160372 Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10406572

Double Feature - The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) / Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

It's been 50 years since the release of the very strange Abominable Dr. Phibes - a visually striking film, but somewhat dated these days in terms of humour and horror. Vincent Price is a little bit wasted, but all the same welcome, as the titular character - burned beyond recognition in a car accident, yet rendered more acceptable with plastic ears and nose. He talks (haltingly) with the aid of some contraption plugged into his neck (he eats and drinks that way as well.) Mostly he hovers around as mute as his assistant, frowning at the doctors he's exacting a revenge on. Those poor souls don't seem to have done much wrong, trying, and yet failing, to save his wife on the operating table. He dispatches them with imagination, re-staging the 10 plagues of Egypt.

Phibes literally goes to Egypt in the sequel, which isn't as subtle in it's humour as the first (which wasn't all that subtle to begin with.) He takes his wife with him, as he's certain she can be resurrected with the help of an ancient river of eternal life. What's missing in this one are the wonderful sets which made up Phibes' abode. He takes his mechanical musicians with him though, so it's not all bad. He has a nemesis this time - Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry). He needed one, because he killed nearly everyone in the first film. Darius has kept himself alive for centuries by drinking some kind of magical potion. It's all very campy, but at least it's aware that it is.

They're a little too comedic to be horror. Not quite comedic enough to be really hilarious. But they're colourful and really good looking films - especially the first. I found them (especially the second) to be a little too cartoonish. You almost expect an anvil to be dropped on one of the unsuspecting victims, and for that person to walk around as a head with two feet propped underneath. I found it hard to get into the spirit of all the tomfoolery.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes - 6/10
Dr. Phibes Rises Again - 4/10





Mortal Kombat (2021)

Finally had a pop at this...

Spoilers!

Better than the 1995 version... but in saying that, the trailer was better.

The word I'm looking for is... generic?

Standard modern day actioner.
There's a little backstory with a couple characters... and the movie plays out as a nod to fans when it comes to why things are the way they are, like the powers the characters have, and the various other realms of existence.
What I mean is: Nothing's actually explained.
If you know the games, you'll know the lore of the powers and realms. If you don't know the games, the movie will come across as a shoddy fantasy.
What's different with this movie though... it's a fan-service movie in some respects, but with a couple changes here and there from what the fans know, it's also not a fan-service movie.

It's like, with the unexplained elements, and yet the changes made... the movie wasn't quite sure if it wanted to be a fan-service, or be accessible to everyone.

And there's the other kicker... some of it is shoddy.
Some of the writing and acting is, well, poor.
At least with WS Anderson, he went for cheesy. Knowingly cheesy.

This version though, the bad stuff is just bad.
Wooden acting for about 40% of the acting that's involved, and little to no audience-character connections... and sadly, this is especially apparent with Cole, the main protagonist.
The main guy we're supposed to care about. He's a nobody. He's just, well, there. He exists.

They could have re-treaded Liu Kang's backstory tbh, kinda like remaking the 1995 movie... and if anything, the small backstory Kang does tell to Cole, actually sounded more interesting. I would have liked to have seen his story, certainly more than Cole's.

Remove Cole, have Liu Kang as the main guy again with the backstory they gave Kang, and this movie would have been far far better.

The other bad thing with this movie... is they went all out with the budget on some things, but not others.
Some of the scenes, especially scenes with Shang Tsung while he's in Outworld (another realm next to Earthrealm)... it appears they simply shot in an old quarry and digitally adjusted the colouring.
The background and set-pieces in Outworld, and the photography,, combined with the wooden acting/actors make these scenes look like something from the old Mortal Kombat Webseries.

Talking of Shang Tsung (and other characters)... played by Chin Han. Miscast.
No charisma at all.
And Raiden played by Tadonobu Asano, is also the same. Miscast and the character is underused.

It's that poorly designed in some places.

The good stuff...
The backstories for Sonya, Jax, Liu Kang are good... and the set-up for Scorpion and Sub Zero is really well done.
I feel Cole is just an excuse to be able to bring Scorpion into the movie but when Scorpion is on screen, the movie lights up with excitement.

Kano (Josh Lawson) is standout... even though he has 0 threat as an antagonist.
He basically gets his ass kicked several times, easily.
Lawson though steals the movie.

Fighting and action is what it's about... yet the trailer gives the wrong impression. I get the feeling there may well have been some editing or even reshoots at some point.
Actual action and fighting though is tip top, if short lived.

The rest of the characters and their characterisations... they're there... just not utilised or written well.
They're just, kinda, there.

All in all...
Dodgy acting and writing on some points... but some really good action and occasionally good acting and writing in other points.
Plus, it's gory too, doesn't hold back on what a Mortal Kombat movie should be in that respect.
Not sure if it's a fan-service or not...

It's a mixed movie, but worth watching: The good points do outweigh the bad... and it far outweighs WS Anderson's movie.

75%


(I rated WS Anderson's movie 65% at
)
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Originally Posted by doubledenim
Garbage bag people fighting hippy love babies.

Bots gotta be bottin'



Welcome to the human race...
I love it when I see a review that, were it not for the positive rating at the end, I'd assume it was negative.

Big Trouble in Little China -


Better than Mortal Kombat '95, far better than Mortal Kombat '21
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



Luca (2021)


I'm probably being a bit more harsh than I should, but amongst all the animation movies I could watch, this one felt a little lacking. The charm is certainly there, but the humor seemed to be completely absent from this one. It also seemed a bit predictable and confined...recommended but I doubt I'll ever watch it again.




Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8160372 Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10406572

Double Feature - The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) / Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

It's been 50 years since the release of the very strange Abominable Dr. Phibes - a visually striking film, but somewhat dated these days in terms of humour and horror. Vincent Price is a little bit wasted, but all the same welcome, as the titular character - burned beyond recognition in a car accident, yet rendered more acceptable with plastic ears and nose. He talks (haltingly) with the aid of some contraption plugged into his neck (he eats and drinks that way as well.) Mostly he hovers around as mute as his assistant, frowning at the doctors he's exacting a revenge on. Those poor souls don't seem to have done much wrong, trying, and yet failing, to save his wife on the operating table. He dispatches them with imagination, re-staging the 10 plagues of Egypt.

Phibes literally goes to Egypt in the sequel, which isn't as subtle in it's humour as the first (which wasn't all that subtle to begin with.) He takes his wife with him, as he's certain she can be resurrected with the help of an ancient river of eternal life. What's missing in this one are the wonderful sets which made up Phibes' abode. He takes his mechanical musicians with him though, so it's not all bad. He has a nemesis this time - Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry). He needed one, because he killed nearly everyone in the first film. Darius has kept himself alive for centuries by drinking some kind of magical potion. It's all very campy, but at least it's aware that it is.

They're a little too comedic to be horror. Not quite comedic enough to be really hilarious. But they're colourful and really good looking films - especially the first. I found them (especially the second) to be a little too cartoonish. You almost expect an anvil to be dropped on one of the unsuspecting victims, and for that person to walk around as a head with two feet propped underneath. I found it hard to get into the spirit of all the tomfoolery.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes - 6/10
Dr. Phibes Rises Again - 4/10
I'm a big fan of ADP, I think it hits a perfect note of quirky and bizarre and gorgeous and fun.
I never saw the second one because I thought the first one was perfect.



I'm a big fan of ADP, I think it hits a perfect note of quirky and bizarre and gorgeous and fun.
I never saw the second one because I thought the first one was perfect.
The second one is quite a bit more formulaic but still fun. Hard to see you not digging it at least a little.


It's funny, I remember watching the first one and thinking it had strong shades of Lucifer Rising, only to realize it came out a year earlier. Did Fuest influence Anger? Who's to say? (I'm sure somebody smarter can explain the influences, but it's fun to note the similarities. )



Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Decided to go on some binges!!!

Hongkong binge:

無味神探 [Loving You] (1995) -
- my 40-odd Johnnie To and a pretty entertaining film!
流金歲月 [Last Romance] (1988) -
- a typical slightly-annoying normie meloromance but Maggie Cheung is like 11/10 in this, look:







紅場飛龍 [The Dragon from Russia] (1990) -
- as incoherent as Godfrey Ho films but Maggie Cheung is so cute and SPEAKS RUSSIAN!!!
降頭 [Gong Tau: Oriental Black Magic] (2007) -
- nice modern CAT III but far from the best in the "genre"
城市女獵人 [Madam City Hunter] (1993) -
- amazing fun, Cynthia Khan is but Anthony Wong is


Preston Sturges binge:

The dude makes some very entertaining and occasionally pretty funny films. High-quality entertainment!

Christmas in July (1940) -

The Great McGinty (1940) -

The Palm Beach Story (1942) -

Unfaithfully Yours (1948) -

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) -

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) -


John Ford binge:

Tobacco Road (1941) -
- zany but fun
The Hurricane (1937) -
- amazing visuals
Sergeant Rutledge (1960) -
- my fav color Ford so far
The Horse Soldiers (1959) -
- nice but forgettable
Donovan's Reef (1963) -
- nice church scene but that's it

Other:



Kotoko (2011) -
- one of the most distressing films I've seen - wasn't ready for that!
偶然と想像 [Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy] (2021) -
- Hamaguchi's comeback and what a beautiful film; he's a genius!
山河故人 [Mountains May Depart] (2015) -
- about the passing and geometry of time, changes taking place in the country and society, and about the intergenerational lack of understanding; the 3rd act is a typical immigration movie with Sylvia
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Tramuzgan's Avatar
Di je Karlo?
Stranger than Fiction (2006) - 7,5/10

I wanted to see if the 2000s had any comedy on par with The Truman Show, that delivered on both the laughs and the story, and while this wasn't it, it was by and large enjoyable. It left good first impressions, too. The first 20 minutes were really snappily written and visually interesting.
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I'm the Yugoslav cinema guy. I dig through garbage. I look for gems.



Within (2016) 6/10

The right kind of horror fan will be able to appreciate this.





Cabaret, 1972

Cambridge scholar Brian (Michael York) arrives in 1931 Berlin and quickly strikes up a friendship with quirky cabaret star Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli). The two of them attempt to navigate love, sex, and friendship, as the city around them transforms under the rise of the Nazi party.

This is one of those films that I've been meaning to get around to for ages, and I'm not tremendously familiar with Minnelli (outside of her work on Arrested Development and, um, this sketch that I watch way too much).


In any event, I really enjoyed it and in particular the way that the musical numbers were filmed. The camera alternates between an audience point of view, an over-the-shoulder view from the performers, and a sense of being inside one of the dance numbers. I also enjoyed the song and dance numbers themselves, with their mix of highbrow and lowbrow elements and the sense of confidence and community among the performers. The dynamic of having the MC (Joel Grey) serve as this interesting mix of performer ("one of the girls") and as the lone male audience surrogate was neat.

And the anchor of the performances serves as an intriguing background to what is happening in the city at large. The performers strut and dance and sing, even as fascism is creeping up on the country. We get a musical interlude outside of the cabaret, and it is a performance of a chilling patriotic song ("Tomorrow belongs to us") that rouses the adults and even the children. Sometimes it is strange to look at entertainment--especially comedies or other "light" stuff--that was produced during intense global upheaval. In this film, the performers go on doing their thing despite the growing tide of change. And the fact that the cabaret itself is home to many people who would be harmed under fascist rule (the gay MC, a transgender performer) creates a neat tension. How long will this cabaret and its performers hold out? The chilling final shot of the film--in which the distorted reflections of Nazi officers are seen in an on-stage mirror--adds an ominous note.

Surprisingly, the least interesting or compelling part of the film for me was the central story between Brian and Sally. And don't get me wrong, Sally's bold-as-brass personality and the curious relationship that develops between her and Brian is a lot of fun. There is something really appealing about the intersection between her larger than life antics pushing up against his more reserved personality. It's also really nice to see Brian's matter of fact bisexuality just be a normal part of the plot. Sally herself is in this weird carpe diem downward spiral as she waits to break into something bigger. There is certainly something magnetic about Minnelli's Sally, especially when she is performing. I just found that the various romantic plots and squabbles lost my interest as the film went on.

Glad I finally checked this one out!

Yeah, that's a good one, and very interesting to look at as a deconstruction of the Musical genre as a whole, as you can see in my post on the topic, if you're interested.


/shamelessself-promotion




By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55597465

The Limehouse Golem - (2016)

Music-hall star Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) is in prison, suspected of poisoning her husband John - but Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) suspects that John was the much feared 'Limehouse Golem' killer and strenuously tries to solve the case before poor Lizzy meets the wrong end of the hangman's noose. Based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd, this story has obvious parallels to Jack the Ripper's crimes, which were committed in London around the same time. Not a really bad movie, but now that I hear Alan Rickman was supposed to be Kildare I'm left to lament what might have been...

6/10


By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62555909

Just Mercy - (2019)

True story about the Equal Justice Initiative and specifically the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to death despite a jury recommendation of life imprisonment. He was convicted on the flimsiest evidence imaginable, and despite the mountain of evidence pointing to his innocence, and the recantation of the coerced testimony of the star witness, his death sentence is confirmed over and over again. Bryan Stevenson arrives in Alabama hoping to help those who have gone through a justice system which is anything but just, and is subjected to strip searches, police harassment, bomb threats and corrupt judges.

This will make your blood boil, but as always there is some semblance of hope offered. The Equal Justice Initiative looked destined to fail as it was set up in 1989, but has since made significant headway by looking into capital cases and softening archaic 'life without parole' sentences for juveniles. It all makes for a compelling and dramatic narrative anchored by fine performances from Michael B. Jordon and Jamie Foxx.

7/10





A bit more action oriented than the first one, but I kinda liked it. It also ends pretty much identical to the previous one.
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