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I've decided to start a review thread, with the goal being recommending you movies you might've not heard of before, or stating my grievances that I feel alone on.
Expect a Marketa Lazarova review within the next hour



Marketa Lazarova






Most people's first association with Františel Vlačil's Marketa Lazarova are those high-scale, high-budget auteur-driven artsy films. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, Emir Kusturica's Underground, so on and so forth. That's a fair comparison, but what sets Marketa apart from the rest of the pack, besides not getting the recognition it deserves, is how much effort was put into it. I mean no disrespect to the other films, but consider the following: the cast and crew of Marketa Lazarova, prior to shooting the movie, lived by themselves in the woods for 2 years, hunting their own food and building their own settlement. Even the instruments used for the soundtrack were all hand-made during that time. This is effort that you don't see every day, and it absolutely shows.

Actors don't feel like actors, they feel like cavemen. There's no showmanship, no teary monologues, and no sarcasm. Barring the eponymous character, nobody looks like someone you'd see in a club. Instead, expect scars, filth, humility, and stoicism. The music and visuals also give off the same vibe; the camera sneaks through the branches, viewing the action from afar. It constantly looks around, as if expecting to be pounced. It looks up at the cathedral in awe, feeling dwarfed by real civilization. A number of these shots is accompanied by fitting drums or chanting. The atmosphere is thick enough to be cut with a knife, and for the duration of the film, you'll feel like a savage.

Two last things I have to mention: first, the way it treats violence. In most movies, you get one of two kinds of treatment; the Christopher Nolan kind, where the gore is obscured in some way to not offend anyone, or the Quentin Tarantino kind, where heads splat like watermelons. Marketa Lazarova goes for a third option; the completely unceremonious kind. There's piles of dead bodies, but there's no close-ups, gasps or anything. It just doesn't make a big deal out of what was normal in the medieval times.
Second, it's a demanding movie. As in, it demands you read the plot synopsis online. That's my one complaint: it's hard to follow, even with its narration. I can forgive that, for reasons stated above, but it's worth mentioning.


To summarize, Marketa Lazarova is more than just great, it's one of the greatest. I'm sure it would be given its well-deserved legend status if it was given more attention, but you don't have to take my word for it. The whole movie is on Youtube with both English and Spanish subtitles. You can see for yourself why I decided to gush about it.



There will be a Social Network review some time soon
Cool, I actually am very interested in those as a general rule, because I think it's sort of an interesting/challenging film to review. I find reviews of The Social Network disproportionately interesting to others.
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The Social Network


Poor Social Network. How does a movie with this much going for it end up being so unremarkable?
There you have a movie about an angsty nerd, from the same director as Fight Club, with a soundtrack composed by the front man of Nine Inch Nails. Both Fincher and Reznor clearly put their heart and soul into this movie. You can tell so by the little things, like the characters having to yell while talking in a club, or the clever bits of dialogue.
A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars!
The other trademarks of Fincher's directing are all there; the robotic camera, non-flashy CGI and artificial colour scheme all convey The Social Network's mood perfectly. Trent Reznor's score adds to that mood and then some. It radiates anxiety, drive or wonder in the same way his masterpiece The Downward Spiral radiates anger and dread. It is one of the best scores ever put in a movie, no joke.

So, then, why did the whole movie leave me so cold?
It's because I couldn't care less about any of the characters or what was going on. Sorry, but the characterization in this movie is garbage. The emotional hook of the story is supposed to be that Mark's getting over a break-up, a la The Great Gatsby, but we're never shown why his girlfriend was so important to him. Was he hoping to propose to her soon? Was he just in need of some affection? Does getting dumped bring up some sort of insecurity? I have no idea.
There was also that B-plot about Mark falling out with Eduardo, with the idea being will Mark pick success over friendship, but I don't get why he'd do so. His supposed reason for chasing success is the breakup, so you can see why, without fleshing that out properly, the whole movie goes out the window.

Don't take me for a hater. I wanted to enjoy The Social Network as much as everyone else. It's not bad at all; it's not even the most disappointing movie I've ever seen. It stands head and shoulders above the self-insert fanfictions like Princess Mononoke or Pan's Labyrinth, but it's nothing I'd watch again.



Spirited Away





Poor Spirited Away. Such an enjoyable movie, and both critics and movie buffs treat it like it's just another Japanese cartoon (the biggest meme-genre in cinema). That means they'll praise it to hell and back, but not even clue you in on what its appeal is. That is exactly what I'll attempt to do in this review.

If you want to enjoy this film, it is essential that you relax. For a movie about a little girl trying to survive in Wonderland, it's very slice of life-esque. The story will advance when it feels like it, and until it does, you'll take in the strange atmosphere of the spirit world, arguably the true star of the show. It's a very beautiful, vibrant-looking setting, and the spirits themselves are imaginatively designed. It's like they come from 30 years worth of Miyazaki's idle thoughts. Some of them get their own short sub-stories, like that polluted river spirit, that have little to no bearing on the main story, adding to the meandering feel of the movie.

That is the true appeal of Spirited Away. Many strange and confusing things will happen, but there's no point in stressing yourself about it.

The spirit world has its own set of rules, but we never learn them fully. Do we need to? No. Whenever Chihiro is faced with some hard task, like getting a job from Yubaba, does she solve it with some complex premeditated scheme? No, she relies on instinct and improvisation, like the everyman she is. That ties onto the much-discussed theme of growing up, as a metaphor for how, when you enter adulthood, you won't know everything about it immediately, but if you learn to go with the flow, you'll know what you need in due time.

Spirited Away doesn't feel like a Japanese cartoon. There's none of the self-satisfied edgy retardation that marks its peers. It feels like a mix of classic Disney and arthouse animation. Despite being intended exclusively for 10-year-old girls, I feel like anyone can have a good time watching it, no matter your age or sex. Sit down, grab a snack, put it on, and remember; stress is your enemy.
Great review, yes, Spirited Away is much more about beauty and atmosphere than a stressful plot. It's solidly in my all-time top ten and I find I can always come back to it whenever I'm feeling upset about life.
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H-8...

I have a fascination with hidden gems. Finding something like Dark Void, a great game that stems from a lousy trend, or Goth Kids 3, Dawn of the Posers, a nu-South Park episode that's as entertaining as the classics, makes me inexplicably giddy. Just like the cover shooter trend, the Croatian film industry generally brings out mediocre entertainment. However, it has its Dark Void in the form of H-8..., an amazing disaster thriller by our or anyone else's standards.

The disaster in question is just a bus crash, nothing that will level cities or end civilization as we know it. However, H-8 makes this small-scale misfortune seem huge: it tells you right off the bat that the crash will happen, but doesn't tell you who exactly dies. It keeps you hooked with character interactions. You're engaged in what's going on between the characters, wondering if they'll resolve their drama before the spaghetti hits the fan, and afraid they'll lose their loved ones.

The intro sequence in which they explain all that is amazing. The rising sense of panic, the way it switches between the two narrators, how their tone grows more and more judgemental, and how it ends focused on the eponymous unknown driver, gave me goosebumps. The idea reeks of Hitchcock's bomb theory, but it knows how to deliver exposition and make it exciting.
Seven people died on the highway. To you, it'll just be a number in the newspaper, and numbers are easily forgotten. It's not hard to watch numbers die.
Another great asset of H-8 is its dialogue. It is both backed by great acting, and sharp enough to cut through steel. The exchanges are so full of pizzazz and charm, you'd never guess they predate Pulp Fiction by 46 years. If only the writing team for A Serbian Film had taken notes from this movie.

There's a few negatives to be thrown out here, such as the extremely basic cinematography, but those are just stains on the window of a class-act vintage car. It's a shame H-8 never took off as much as the black wave movies, because I could easily see it making top lists of old-school Hitchcock-esque thrillers.



That's a good idea, actually. If I see someone has dozens of reviews and they're all positive, I have to wonder about it. At worst it means they like everything, at best it suggests they avoid risky or challenging films. Which is fine if someone's just trying to pass some time, but I'd say if someone is trying to appreciate film more as a medium and/or become a better critic, dissecting why a film is bad is almost as important as analyzing something great.



That's a good idea, actually. If I see someone has dozens of reviews and they're all positive, I have to wonder about it. At worst it means they like everything, at best it suggests they avoid risky or challenging films. Which is fine if someone's just trying to pass some time, but I'd say if someone is trying to appreciate film more as a medium and/or become a better critic, dissecting why a film is bad is almost as important as analyzing something great.
Most of my past reviews have been positive, but that’s only because I review my top 16 favorite movies in my tournaments... that said I’ve written some bad reviews. But I like positive reviews more.



Marketa Lazarova






Most people's first association with Františel Vlačil's Marketa Lazarova are those high-scale, high-budget auteur-driven films. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, Emir Kusturica's Underground, so on and so forth. That's a fair comparison, but what sets Marketa apart from the rest of the pack, besides not getting the recognition it deserves, is how much effort was put into it. I mean no disrespect to the other films, but consider the following: the cast and crew of Marketa Lazarova, prior to shooting the movie, lived by themselves in the woods for 2 years, hunting their own food and building their own settlement. Even the instruments used for the soundtrack were all hand-made during that time. This is effort that you don't see every day, and it absolutely shows.

Actors don't feel like actors, they feel like barbarians. There's no showmanship, no teary monologues, and no sarcasm. Barring the eponymous character, nobody looks like someone you'd see in a club. Instead, expect scars, filth, humility, and stoicism. The music and visuals also give off the same vibe; the camera sneaks through the branches, viewing the action from afar. It constantly looks around, as if expecting to be pounced. It looks up at the cathedral in awe, feeling dwarfed by real civilization. A number of these shots is accompanied by fitting drums or chanting. The atmosphere is thick enough to be cut with a knife, and for the duration of the film, you'll feel like a savage.

Two last things I have to mention: first, the way it treats violence. In most movies, you get one of two kinds of treatment; the Christopher Nolan kind, where the gore is obscured in some way to not offend anyone, or the Quentin Tarantino kind, where heads splat like watermelons. Marketa Lazarova goes for a third option; the completely unceremonious kind. There's piles of dead bodies, but there's no close-ups, gasps or anything. It just doesn't make a big deal out of what was normal in the medieval times.
Second, it's a demanding movie. As in, it demands you read the plot synopsis online. That's my one complaint: it's hard to follow, even with its narration. I can forgive that, for reasons stated above, but it's worth mentioning.

To summarize, Marketa Lazarova is more than just great, it's one of the greatest. I'm sure it would be given its well-deserved legend status if it was given more attention, but you don't have to take my word for it. The whole movie is on Youtube with both English and Spanish subtitles. You can see for yourself why I decided to gush about it.
I'v not read it but the film is based on a book known for being as obtuse in its literary style as possible and I certainly think you see that in the film. Typically cinema tends to work via looking to find modern analogues in non modern settings but here I think you see something that very deliberately looks to shift as far from a modern mindset as possible.

You mention Andrei Rublev which on the face of it does have quite a few similarities to it but I would argue the fundamental shift is that this story is told very much from the Pagan rather than the Christian perspective. That has a big impact on the visual style of the film, where as Andrei is all beautiful balanced composition of wide scenes Marketa Lazarova is far more confined, narrower compositions often viewed though undergrowth. The same with the narrative as a whole which jumps around more like a series of pagan orals histories than some clearly written story.

I wouldn't say its a film without humour/irony, I mean at the start of the second half you have the godlike narrator having an argument with a character and accusing him of bestiality.


Spirited Away doesn't feel like a Japanese cartoon. There's none of the self-satisfied edgy retardation that marks its peers. It feels like a mix of classic Disney and arthouse animation. Despite being intended exclusively for 10-year-old girls, I feel like anyone can have a good time watching it, no matter your age or sex. Sit down, grab a snack, put it on, and remember; stress is your enemy.
Not sure I'd agree with that, Ghibli films have always aimed at a wider audience and some of them like say Grave of the Fireflys, Porco Rosso, Whisper of the Heart or Princess Mononoke arguably moreso at adults. In this situation I would say that the outlandish setting feels like a way to put the audience more into the shoes of a young girl experiencing a strange and frighting world. That's I think very different to the classic Disney style based on children's stories.



Not sure I'd agree with that, Ghibli films have always aimed at a wider audience and some of them like say Grave of the Fireflys, Porco Rosso, Whisper of the Heart or Princess Mononoke arguably moreso at adults. In this situation I would say that the outlandish setting feels like a way to put the audience more into the shoes of a young girl experiencing a strange and frighting world. That's I think very different to the classic Disney style based on children's stories.
You completely missed my point, but there'll be more on that in my princess mononoke review



You completely missed my point, but there'll be more on that in my princess mononoke review
"Despite being intended exclusively for 10-year-old girls" seems like a pretty straight forward point which is what I was disagreeing with. As I said I think its actually a film like most of the directors output intended for a wide audience.

A lot of the films intension I would say is using the fantastical setting to recreate the same kind of experiences in adults as a 10 year old would have being exposed to the normal adult world. The framing device of the film itself after all is the more everyday story of the family moving house and her coming to accept it.

If your looking for other anime aimed at an adult audience that isn't just concerned with "edginess" then I'd suggest Kon's work like Millennium Actress.



Beavis and Butt-head do America





How about we start on an anecdote? Back in my senior year of high school, we were tasked with reviewing a movie of our choice. While everyone else was bringing in the likes of Forrest Gump or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I did my part with Beavis and Butt-head do America, and aced it. I know, I'm awesome.
My verdict was, and still is, that you'll like the movie if you like the show. Fortunately for me, I love the show.

The basic gist of the movie is exactly what you think it is; Beavis and Butt-head try to find their lost TV, which ends up with them travelling across America to ''do'' some shady guy's ex-wife. There's a pretty serious story going on in the background, but the focus is on Beavis and Butt-head's journey, and all the ways they make asses of themselves. Butt-head incompetently hitting on a stewardess, Beavis talking to the french ambassador about TP for his bunghole, or both of them dancing like retards in a Las Vegas club is what you're looking for. Also, if Beavis doesn't make you want to impersonate him, you're a fart-knocker.

The aforementioned background story is deserving of a mention; it's about a criminal trying to get back at his femme fatale ex-wife, and it would've made for a decent movie in its own right. Both Muddy and Dallas are believable as characters; the former seems genuinely angry and bitter, the latter genuinely evil and dangerous. Still, they don't hog the spotlight too much, and watching them play straight man to Beavis and Butt-head adds to the fun.

So, like... what are you reading this crap for? Go watch the movie, dumbass. Huh huh huh huh



I would say B&B Do America is a good example of a film understanding the appeal of the original series rather than trying to plug it into some standard film narrative. Its basically Judge having fun with the characters and a much higher budget in a series of set pieces whilst mocking society as a whole.



Princess Mononoke

Anti-war movies are interesting. The industry has discussed the same topic for almost a hundred years, but it never seems to get old. Why? Sometimes, it's because the directors like to mix it up with their fresh perspective (a la Dr. Strangelove) or inventive filmmaking styles (a la Dunkirk). Most of the time, though, it's because they're given the pulse of real experience. The directors of Come and See, No Man's Land, and The Great Illusion had all experienced war first-hand. Princess Mononoke was conceived by someone who grew up in the shambles of post-war Japan, but if you told me it was made by a Buzzfeed journalist, I would've believed you.

Unlike the good movies I already pointed out, Mononoke has no real characters with thoughts, feelings and personalities. All that Eboshi, the princess, and A****aka are, is avatars for ideas. Eboshi is relentless, industrious, and charitable to humans, so she's civilization. The Princess is stoic, spiritual and distrusting of humans, so she's nature. They're bedtime story characters inserted where realistic, multi-faceted people should be.
The worst of them, hands down, is the protagonist A****aka. He's like a self-insert fanfiction character; effortlessly better than everyone at everything, adored by everyone, lacking any significant character flaws, and always has the moral high ground. The only bad thing that happens to him for the duration of the movie is that he's beaten in a fight with an actual god (wow, what a scrappy underdog!) and given a disease that'll eventually kill him. The other symptoms of this disease? It gives him super-strength. Yep.

On top of all that, there's also his obnoxious punchable face. He's the reason I didn't post any images like I normally do.

A combination of everything I mentioned results in the most groan-inducing scene in all of cinema: when Eboshi and the princess are about to fight it out, and A****aka jumps in between them, unharmed, and yells something along the lines of ''stop, hasn't there been enough destruction already''. A complete outsider with no understanding of the intricacies of this conflict, doing that. He might as well have slapped them with a rolled-up newspaper and said ''No, bad!''.
We're supposed to like this guy, let me remind you. He doesn't get kicked out for doing this, he's not even made to feel guilty.

I'm still not convinced this movie isn't some big joke everyone's in on but me. ''Let's make the most self-aggrandizing and retarded movie in the world and then tell everyone it's amazing!''. The same could be said of Japanese cartoons a a whole, but that's a rant for another day. I can usually understand when someone praises a movie I hate, like how some people admire A Serbian Film for being unflinching, but I legitimately have no idea what princess mononoke has to offer anyone. There's no pulse, daring, soul, wit, intelligence, technique, or even ''so bad it's good'' appeal. Nothing but a huge stiffy for itself.

Plus, if I hear anyone use the word ''mature'' to defend it, I'm going to steal the launch codes and nuke myself.
Good lord... Princess Mononoke is one of my top ten animated movies of all time, so why don’t I just touch on what I wrote on my review.

First, we completely disagree character wise.
I said:
“What I think I like most about Miyazaki's style is his way of putting depth and ambiguity into his characters. Take Lady Eboshi, the strong leader of Iron Town who seeks to destroy all nature on the mountain top in order for humans to prosper. At the beginning, she is portrayed as a ruthless seeker of power, and a lust for wealth. But as we explore more, we also discover more facets to her personality. The townspeople fiercely defend her, and she is not only a good leader, she is also kind to cripples and the injured. She makes sure everyone is provided for and she gives everyone fair jobs. While she has a huge flaw - her need for destruction on the mountain - she clearly has good sides too.

That is only one example. San, or Princess Mononoke, is another great example of Miyazki's excellent character writing. San is a girl raised by wolves and taught to hate mankind. Her intentions are good - she seeks to preserve nature and the environment as humanity tries to take over. However, her often ruthless killing and blind stereotyping (of Prince A****aka notably) make her a very flawed character. So we have two major characters (both female, interestingly) on different sides of the conflict which are portrayed in a very similar ways - as a mixed bag of good and evil.”

So yeah, I love the characters.

Also you’ve gotta give it at least a popcorn or two just for the animation. Come on, the artwork is just beautiful.

But of course you’re entitled to your opinion. It definitely takes itself seriously which can turn a lot of people off. And it’s certainly not the masterpiece that Spirited Away is. But I still love it.