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PREDATOR 2
(1990, Hopkins)



"You can't see the eyes of the demon, until him come callin'."

Predator 2 transplants the creature from the jungles of Latin America to the "street jungles" of Los Angeles which, on paper, is a rather clever idea for it to not be just a rehash of the first one. The city, which is embroiled in a turf war between a Colombian gang and a Jamaican gang, now has to face a new threat, which puts Harrigan and his team against the wall.

I do think that the fast-paced action works pretty well for the first half, which is a pretty energetic stretch of the film. But after the half-point mark, it does feel like it overstays its welcome. The plot keeps stretching things far too long and the ending feels more like a whimper than a bang. I do like how the very final act expands a bit into the nature of the predator, but I didn't really care too much about it at that point.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot
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Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!



THE ROUGH HOUSE
(1917, Arbuckle & Keaton)



"A new cook in the kitchen"

The Rough House is a 20 minute short written, directed, and starred by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. It follows a series of shenanigans that occur at the house of Mr. Rough (Arbuckle) as he wakes up, has breakfast, and handles two quarreling lovers and a pair of thieves.

The film has a simple premise and works mostly as a series of sketches loosely tied, but they all work fairly well together. Most of the physical comedy is on point, and I really laughed at some of the gags they pulled. Keaton's roles are fairly small, but Arbuckle has a nice comedic timing and a funny aloof persona.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot




The Apple (Menahem Golan, 1980)
the songs are for the most part very good but the visuals just aren't there and its a little boring. has its moments tho and bonus points for the amazing deus ex machina ending.



BEN-HUR
(1907, Olcott & Oakes Rose)



"A wonderfully realistic and pleasing presentation of Lew Wallace's famous story and a triumph of the kinetoscopic art."

That's how a "Western newspaper" described a local showing of this 1907 silent short film. Based on Wallace's 1880's novel, the film skims over most of the events briefly as it shows the titular hero imprisoned and competing in the famous chariot race.

Unfortunately, most of the versions I could find of these short were of very poor quality, so it's hard to see it as the grandiose experience that was described on that newspaper. The version that I saw also lacked any accompanying score, which makes the whole experience feel a bit flat.

Still, it's really interesting to catch up with these old classics and transport ourselves to those theaters and think of that wonderful experience at the time.

Grade: N/A




The Tender Bar (2021)

This is a charming film, a nice film. Directed by George Clooney, and starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, and Christopher Lloyd, it tells the story of a young kid (Daniel Ranieri, later Sheridan) growing up after his father (Max Martini) had left his mother (Rabe). The fatherly duties are pretty much taken over by his uncle (Affleck). He and his mom are forced to move back in with her parents, played by Christopher Lloyd and Sondra James. The boy’s uncle exposes him to fine writing, and instills in him the desire to attend Yale, which, although seemingly impossible, happens.

Most of the story focuses on the boy growing into young adulthood. It’s based upon an autobiographical book of the same name by J.R. Moehringer. The story seems to be pretty faithful to the book.


No one ought to win an Oscar for this one, yet everyone did a perfectly professional job. There were a few issues with characters who didn’t age as the boy did, but otherwise it was believable. No new ground here, but there were fine performances from Affleck and Sheridan. The picture took awhile to get going, but once it did, it held the viewer’s interest for the whole ride.

Available on Amazon Prime.

Doc’s rating: 6/10



Halloween Kills (2021)




I watch all of these even though the original is the only one I'm a big fan of. This started so bad that I thought it had to be a movie within a movie that the characters were watching. It didn't get much better until about 35 minutes in, and then it got good. Well good for a movie like this if you're a horror fan.





Cocaine Cowboys, 2006

This documentary follows the rise of the cocaine trade and the corresponding rise in horrifying violence in early 1980s Miami.

This was . . . pretty good.

The main credit that I have to give the film is for its very clear explanation of the series of events that led to Miami being such a hub of cocaine use and business. The interviews with those involved generate great, personal details and the film alternates smaller moments with a larger sense of how things played out.

Probably the most compelling aspect of the film comes in the form of testimony from Rivi Ayala, a Colombian cartel enforcer who ended up working for Griselda Blano, one of the most ruthless (and certainly one of the most bonkers) bosses. Rivi's actions--including the killing of a baby--are intense and shocking. As with anyone who had been involved in very illegal things, you have to take his account with a grain of salt, but it's not hard to believe that him being appalled at being asked to kill a group of children during a hit is a genuine reaction.

Something that the film touches on, but I wish it had been more forceful about, is how the existing power structures enabled a lot of what happened. The documentary touches on the scandal involving corrupt police officers, but gives the impression that these were just bad apples foolishly employed during a desperate spate of hiring.

I also always struggle with films like this, because some of the people in them seem so pleased with themselves. This especially applies to Mickey Munday and Jon Roberts, two men who imported and distributed drugs. They have this slightly indifferent, almost smarmy attitude that's just hard to handle. They admit that they did it for money, and they even admit that things were grisly and gruesome and awful. But at the same time there's this little smirk like they're proud to have been part of an adventure and weren't they clever? When you're looking at a picture of a dead baby it all starts to seem particularly gross.

I also feel as if there's a missed opportunity to include the voices of some of the Cuban people who lived through this time. Consistently, Cubans and Colombians are referred to as these invading monsters, often explicitly called "animals" or "not human." While there's no question that there was a huge influx of a criminal element, I was uncomfortable with what felt like painting a ton of people with the same brush.

An interesting look at a piece of modern American history, but missing a few elements for me to have truly loved it.




SHERLOCK, JR.
(1924, Keaton
That is the proverb that opens up this silent film classic that follows a projectionist (Buster Keaton) that dreams of being a detective. When he is falsely accused of stealing a pocket watch from the father of the girl he loves, he is forbidden from seeing her again. Burdened by this, he ends up dreaming he is inside a film with a similar storyline where he is "the world's greatest detective".

This was only my second Keaton film after The General (I ended up seeing two more of his short films after this), but this one follows a "similar" template in which he finds himself in wacky predicaments to earn the love of a girl. Although there is good slapstick comedy, the main attraction in both are the impressive stunts and effects that Keaton comes up with.

Grade:


Full review on my Movie Loot
A very good comedy, a classic. I don't think Keaton ever made a bad one. IMO he was the greatest of them all, including Chaplin, Lloyd and Sennett.



SALLIE GARDNER AT A GALLOP
(1878, Muybridge)



I would've loved to be in the room when the guy started flipping pictures and went "HOLY S-HIIIIT!!!"


ROUNDHAY GARDEN SCENE
(1888, Augustin Le Prince)



"Here we go around, (round, round, round)"


WORKERS LEAVING THE LUMIÈRE FACTORY
(1895, Lumière)



It's good to know that bolting out of work like a speed demon is a centuries long tradition.

A bunch of really old short films from the 19th Century I saw in preparation for the next episode of my podcast. Really interesting to see those first steps of film technology and cinema, and people trying to figure out what they can do with this. It's amazing.



Lake of the Dead (1958)
aka De dødes tjern

A Norwegian horror-thriller that's paying a lot of homage to the likes of Doyle, Poe, and Hammer Films. It's a part of the recent folk horror boxed set, but I wouldn't classify it as such. The plot is kinda silly (in a good, pulpy way), but there's a rather nice atmosphere. Everything here is just awfully familiar.
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I would've loved to be in the room when the guy started flipping pictures and went "HOLY S-HIIIIT!!!"
I know this is meant as a joke but this isn't quite as it was. Haha. There's a nice book on the history cinema with a big introduction that covers early film and its origins. It was deeply illuminating to me but sadly I hardly remember it now because I read it years ago. Also, it's only available in Polish so it's probably of no value to you anyway.

However, I'd like to recommend you a documentary that may indeed be of great value to you: Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer.

For your convenience:




I know this is meant as a joke but this isn't quite as it was. Haha. There's a nice book on the history cinema with a big introduction that covers early film and its origins. It was deeply illuminating to me but sadly I hardly remember it now because I read it years ago. Also, it's only available in Polish so it's probably of no value to you anyway.

However, I'd like to recommend you a documentary that may indeed be of great value to you: Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer.

For your convenience:

Thanks for sharing it. I'll check it out.





The Music Room, 1958

Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas) is a landlord living in a lavish home. His passion is music, and despite the fact that there are multiple factors leading to a decline in his wealth, he continues to spend in order to host extravagant concerts in his home. (A major bonus being to spite a neighbor who also likes to throw a party). But when tragedy shakes up his life, his relationship to music and his way of living dramatically shifts.

My main thought watching this film was just, dang, how do Ray's film's look so good to my eye? Is it the film he uses? His lighting? I'm fine with the film being feature length, but all I needed was that chandelier swinging in the darkness and I was in love.

Storywise, there's something really interesting about the presentation of the film's protagonist. He's a rich, spoiled guy. He spends money like he has no other cares while his servants nervously keep him appraised of his dwindling assets. But I guess there's just something about a person who loves art that will always touch some part of my sympathy. There are far, far worse things that a rich person can be into. And then there's this idea that something as abstract and otherworldly as music is the thing that keeps this character anchored to the world.

Another great delight of this film is the performances themselves. Especially when it comes to a musical performance in the final act, these sequences are done in a way that totally lets you understand why Roy is so enamored of them. It's dreamy escapism as we watch someone engage in dreamy escapism.

Gorgeous film.





The Mind's Eye (Jan Nickman, 1990)
early CG animation is an aesthetic i adore (being a 90s kid from Canada ensured that would be the case) and a lot of this really scratches the itch for it. i'm not surprised since its a collection of numerous short animations but the vibes are a bit inconsistent. picking a vibe and sticking with it would have really elevated this because the stuff that hits really really hits.



Couple of good Hardy Krüger WW2 movies:



Der Fuchs von Paris (1957)
The Fox of Paris

Directed by Paul May

German film set in pre-D-Day Paris sees a German agent infiltrate the French resistance, only to later discover that his superiors have him actually working for the allies. Finds himself in a sort of political no-mans land, with sympathy coming from both sides. High quality film making and quite strong the way it all wraps up at the end.

8/10


----------------------------------------------------





Un taxi pour Tobrouk (1961)
Taxi for Tobruk

Directed by Denys de La Patellière

French film with four French commandos stranded in North Africa, who manage to capture an enemy vehicle with a German officer and try to make it back to their own lines. Refreshingly light-hearted in its overall approach. The character's personal differences quickly dissolve into a simple story of five ordinary guys in a truck trying get to some place. Quality dialogue is what makes this film and also good to see the likable Charles Aznavour (Shoot the Piano Player).

7/10





The Music Room, 1958

Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas) is a landlord living in a lavish home. His passion is music, and despite the fact that there are multiple factors leading to a decline in his wealth, he continues to spend in order to host extravagant concerts in his home. (A major bonus being to spite a neighbor who also likes to throw a party). But when tragedy shakes up his life, his relationship to music and his way of living dramatically shifts.

My main thought watching this film was just, dang, how do Ray's film's look so good to my eye? Is it the film he uses? His lighting? I'm fine with the film being feature length, but all I needed was that chandelier swinging in the darkness and I was in love.

Storywise, there's something really interesting about the presentation of the film's protagonist. He's a rich, spoiled guy. He spends money like he has no other cares while his servants nervously keep him appraised of his dwindling assets. But I guess there's just something about a person who loves art that will always touch some part of my sympathy. There are far, far worse things that a rich person can be into. And then there's this idea that something as abstract and otherworldly as music is the thing that keeps this character anchored to the world.

Another great delight of this film is the performances themselves. Especially when it comes to a musical performance in the final act, these sequences are done in a way that totally lets you understand why Roy is so enamored of them. It's dreamy escapism as we watch someone engage in dreamy escapism.

Gorgeous film.

For someone who's known largely as a neorealist (on the basis of his debut), I think he's kind of underrated as a visual storyteller. It probably helps that he worked with the same cinematographer on a lot of his movies. I would recommend The Hero to see him at his stylistic boldest. (The movie has a pretty heavy 8 1/2 influence.)



Don't think it's on the channel, but there is a documentary included as a special feature on one of the Criterion releases for his movies that has him talk extensively about his craft. I would recommend seeking that out. (He also wrote a book where he does the same, but that doesn't have the benefit of his rich speaking voice.)


And I forget, have you seen Charulata or The Big City? I suspect you will like both of those a lot if you haven't seen them.






Scream (2022)


Scream 5 is a very good movie that could have been a great film with a little better direction, focus and restraint. The first twist in the story is by far the best twist and sets up an excellent first half of the film. Sadly you have a few missteps along the way and an ending that almost feels like a Marx brothers bit.
WARNING: spoilers below
all three of the main female characters run around the final act with gut wounds
.

While the cynic in me hated the final result of the film and the motivation for the film I will admit that I was entertained and enjoyed the horror film. It's in the 4/2 range even though it has a massive plot hole
WARNING: spoilers below
no way could the hospital killer be the revealed killer
.





Cocaine Cowboys, 2006

This documentary follows the rise of the cocaine trade and the corresponding rise in horrifying violence in early 1980s Miami.

This was . . . pretty good.

The main credit that I have to give the film is for its very clear explanation of the series of events that led to Miami being such a hub of cocaine use and business. The interviews with those involved generate great, personal details and the film alternates smaller moments with a larger sense of how things played out.

Probably the most compelling aspect of the film comes in the form of testimony from Rivi Ayala, a Colombian cartel enforcer who ended up working for Griselda Blano, one of the most ruthless (and certainly one of the most bonkers) bosses. Rivi's actions--including the killing of a baby--are intense and shocking. As with anyone who had been involved in very illegal things, you have to take his account with a grain of salt, but it's not hard to believe that him being appalled at being asked to kill a group of children during a hit is a genuine reaction.

Something that the film touches on, but I wish it had been more forceful about, is how the existing power structures enabled a lot of what happened. The documentary touches on the scandal involving corrupt police officers, but gives the impression that these were just bad apples foolishly employed during a desperate spate of hiring.

I also always struggle with films like this, because some of the people in them seem so pleased with themselves. This especially applies to Mickey Munday and Jon Roberts, two men who imported and distributed drugs. They have this slightly indifferent, almost smarmy attitude that's just hard to handle. They admit that they did it for money, and they even admit that things were grisly and gruesome and awful. But at the same time there's this little smirk like they're proud to have been part of an adventure and weren't they clever? When you're looking at a picture of a dead baby it all starts to seem particularly gross.

I also feel as if there's a missed opportunity to include the voices of some of the Cuban people who lived through this time. Consistently, Cubans and Colombians are referred to as these invading monsters, often explicitly called "animals" or "not human." While there's no question that there was a huge influx of a criminal element, I was uncomfortable with what felt like painting a ton of people with the same brush.

An interesting look at a piece of modern American history, but missing a few elements for me to have truly loved it.

I watched part of this when it was on TV once, and though it's been a while, I do remember thinking it was a pretty compelling doc, and a nice real-life counterpart to De Palma's Scarface in capturing Miami back in its 80's drug war era (speaking of which, have you ever seen that one, Tak?).