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June 11, 2024

THE WATCHERS (Ishana Night Shyamalan / 2024)

I must say that I was impressed! The daughter of M. Night Shyamalan does a very good job with this horror thriller. For better or for worse, she's a chip off the ol' block, because while she shares many of her father's stylistic traits and genre sensibilities, she also shares with him a slightly off-kilter eccentricity that I could never ever really nail down, but which makes her father's cinematic body of work something of a mixed bag. I wish I could be more specific than that, but the Shyamalan sensibility is something that I've never really gotten a grip on, even though I've admired many of M. Night's films in the past. (In particular, I always thought 2004's The Village was very underrated, and found 2016's Split to be very thought-provoking. I never really could figure out what he was up to with 2006's Lady in the Water or 2008's The Happening, though...)

The Watchers is primarily a horror film about supernatural folklore, specifically of the Celtic variety. Dakota Fanning plays an American girl named Mina, who lives and works in a pet store in Ireland. It's hinted early on that she's estranged from her family and has a tragic history. When her car breaks down in a forest while en route to deliver a parrot (a very charismatic little bird, BTW ), she finds herself lost and trapped. She follows a mysterious woman named Madeline (Olwen Fouéré) to a bunker-like building in which Madeline, Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and Daniel (Oliver Finnegan) reside. It turns out they are trapped by a dangerous race of metamorphic creatures referred to as Watchers, who observe the group's activities through the one-way mirror window of the building. We later find out that these creatures are a debased version of a type of mythical fairy creature that once co-existed side by side with humans and even mated with them.

One of the things that I always have trouble getting a foothold on with Shyamalan films (father's or daughter's) is just precisely what the movie is all about... or rather what the theme is. And in many cases, I feel like the film is deliberately toying with me and misdirecting me down a blind alley. In the case of this film, we're given a rather blatant hint at allegory when we're shown the characters watching DVD's of some reality TV show in the bunker. Yes, we're invited to draw a comparison between the voyeurism of our popular culture and the voyeurism of the creatures. But to what end, ultimately? This particular thematic thread is dropped almost as soon as it's raised. Like I said, a bit of a misdirect. This proves, however, to be merely a minor distraction. Ishana's The Watchers is, for the most part, relatively straightforward and, unlike M. Night's work, there's no real serious hint of anything deep or probing. (Like I said before, sometimes the elder Shyamalan achieves that greater depth, sometimes not.) However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Ishana's not bad for a first-timer, and she's got a real flair for the genre.

Not to indulge in too many spoilers, but if you're asking whether or not our characters manage to escape the forest and the clutches of the Watchers... well, I won't say either way, but the story continues for a while beyond the point at which we find out. Also, due to the fact that the story deals with beings who are shapeshifters, the whole issue dealt with in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) once again comes up here. Namely, how good are they at changing their shape and appearance? Also, to paraphrase Courtney Love, if they can "fake it so real that they're beyond fake," then that raises the issue of infiltration - and ultimately, of trust. As I've stated, the movie goes on for quite some time after audiences might think it's over, and there is a bit of a drag towards the end. The ending is effective, though, and we get a hint of the possibility of rapprochement.

Granted, it's not a great movie, but The Watchers is distinctive and different enough - and (always attractive to me) intelligent enough - to stand out from the rest of the horror pack. I eagerly look forward to what young Ishana comes up with next!
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"Well, it's what people know about themselves inside that makes 'em afraid" - Clint Eastwood as The Stranger, High Plains Drifter (1973)

"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" - Bob Dylan, Talkin' World War III Blues (1963)





My Darling Clementine (John Ford / 1946)
Red River (Howard Hawks / 1948)

I went and got myself two classics here!

The first one, John Ford's My Darling Clementine stars Henry Fonda in the role of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature in the role of John "Doc" Holliday. While it's not my particular favorite among the many film versions of the Earp / Holliday / Tombstone / O.K. Corral legend (that would be a tie between the two rivalling 1993-1994 films with Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner), it's a movie I've got a lot of admiration and respect for. It has a wistful and melancholic air about it, and its pacing is extremely unhurried. If Quentin Tarantino is right and 1959's Rio Bravo is Howard Hawks' "hangout movie," then I would submit that My Darling Clementine is Ford's. As the movie starts off, the Earp brothers are portrayed this time as cattlemen driving their herd along to the little town of Tombstone, Arizona. After their cattle are stolen and youngest brother James is killed in cold blood by the rustlers, Wyatt takes on the job of town marshal and vows to bring the culprits to justice. And it looks like the culprits are Pa Clanton and his son, Pa being brilliantly played by Walter Brennan at his most venomously sinister. (Apparently Brennan didn't get along with John Ford, and channeled that hostility toward his director into the role of Pa Clanton.) However... Having established the key players and their situation, a confident Ford is in no hurry to advance the confrontation. He knows the drama will come to a head eventually. Victor Mature portrays Doc Holliday in this film, and while at first this might come across as strange counter-typecasting, Mature is quite convincing in the role. I particularly love the scene in the saloon where he's reciting the famous soliloquy from Shakespeare's Hamlet, taking over from Shakespearian actor Granville Thorndyke (Alan Mowbray) after the drunken thespian forgets his lines.

Also featuring the talents of Walter Brennan - and also dealing with cattle - is Howard Hawks' Red River, the director's very first Western and his first collaboration with leading man John Wayne. The Duke portrays cattleman Thomas Dunson, who with his older sidekick (Brennan, playing O.G. - the Original Groot! ) and his adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift), undertakes the ambitious project of driving a herd of ten thousand cattle over a distance of almost a thousand miles from Texas to Missouri, with many obstacles and difficulties en route. The role of Tom Dunson is one of Wayne's greatest performances - possibly the greatest alongside Ethan Edwards in John Ford's The Searchers (1956). What both of these Wayne performances share is a sense of danger, of volatility, the sense of someone not to be crossed or trifled with. In both films, Wayne channels a more monstrous and darker energy, a real Captain Ahab / Captain Bligh sort of obsession that the younger characters (Clift as Matthew in the first film, Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley in the later film) must eventually deal with and confront. Personally, I find that the more monstrous Wayne's character, the more sympathetic I ultimately find him. That's definitely paradoxical, I know, but I find Wayne's screen persona more involving and affecting the more extreme his character and his circumstances. Remember that famous scene from The Searchers after Ethan finds the body of Lucy? "What do you want me to do, spell it out? Draw you a picture?! Don't ever ask me! As long as you live, don't ever ask me again!" You know it's all Ethan can do at that moment to just hold it together and not burst out screaming, and you're very moved by that. Wayne absolutely excels in these sorts of moments. Getting back to the Hawks film... While I don't love this quite as much as Hawks' other classic Western, Rio Bravo, I definitely find a lot to love with Red River.

BTW, Red River is based on a story by the writer Borden Chase, who also worked on the screenplay. Chase also did the screenplays for the first three Anthony Mann / James Stewart Westerns, including 1952's Bend of the River. I swear to God, no one can write a threat like Borden Chase. Here's John Wayne to Montgomery Clift in the Hawks film: "Cherry was right. You're soft, you should have let 'em kill me, 'cause I'm gonna kill you. I'll catch up with ya. I don't know when, but I'll catch up. Every time you turn around, expect to see me, 'cause one time you'll turn around and I'll be there. I'm gonna kill ya, Matt." And here's James Stewart to Arthur Kennedy in Mann's film: "You'll be seeing me. You'll be seeing me. Every time you bed down for the night, you'll look back to the darkness and wonder if I'm there. And some night, I will be. You'll be seeing me!" Gives you goosebumps, right?



In addition to those two, I bought myself some upgrades to a few films I had already (a triple double-dip!). I got the 4K versions of Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), as well as the recent Kino Lorber edition of Don Siegel's The Beguiled.



Umpteenth Rewatch...For my money, Blake Edwards' masterpiece and his most underrated film. Edwards wrote and directed this scorching cinematic middle finger to the way the Hollywood studios treated him and wife Julie Andrews after their big bomb Darling Lili. The film stars the late Richard Mulligan, as a fictionalized Edwards named Felix Farmer, whose latest film with wife, Sally Miles (Andrews) bombs at the box office. After nearly losing his mind and attempting suicide, Felix comes up with a plan to save the film by re-shooting as sexual extravaganza, climaxing with Sally baring her breasts onscreen for the first time. Edwards' take no prisoners screenplay fills the screen with a bunch of manipulative and duplicitous Hollywood movers and shakers who all have their own agendas and don't care who they have to run over to achieve them. Mulligan and Andrews are backed by a spectacular cast (a lot of whom are no longer with us) includes Robert Webber, Robert Preston, William Holden (his last film), Shelley Winters. Robert Vaughn, Marisa Berensen, Loretta Swit, Roseanna Arquette, Craig Stevens, Larry Hagman, and Stuart Margolin. This film just gets better with age and Andrews has never looked more beautiful onscreen.
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Not seen for years but I remember thinking that it was very bold when I did so. The leading up to the you-know-what scene with the demonic seducer dancer is quite hard to forget.



I forgot the opening line.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10358717

Where Eagles Dare - (1968)

I've seen this playing on television and the like what feels like a hundred times during my life, but I'd never stopped to actually watch it. Seems like it had the potential to be a great film, leaning heavily into espionage and running a lofty 155 minutes - which is what always put me off. Well, I felt like giving it a go and I was surprised by how many twists there are and how much they change the overall complexion of the movie. Richard Burton seems made to play a gruff, emotionless agent pretending to be a gruff, emotionless German officer - and his presence makes Clint Eastwood feel a little out of place. I'm not all that familiar with Mary Ure. The location work in Austria and at the Festung Hohenwerfen, in Werfen is out of this world, and adds so much atmosphere to proceedings. I'm proud to say that I wasn't confused at all by the plot - and I only dare to mention that because 9 times out of 10 I will be. There's some fine edge-of-your-seat action on a cable car leading to the castle on the mountain, and I'm surprised they didn't squeeze a little mountain climbing into the movie ala The Guns of Navarone. In any case, I'm amazed that these guys are shot at by the entire German army it seems, and every shot out of about a million misses these guys, but when they shoot they mow down German soldiers by the dozen. Looks like German soldiers never got enough practice time out on the firing ranges! A second watch would be interesting, knowing all the twists in advance - but for now I have to rate this somewhat highly.

8/10


By https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9026524/, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62726153

Bliss - (2019)

Fascinatingly dark and bloody horror film that dissolves the similarity between vampirism and drug addiction into an hallucinogenic cocktail that involves both. I found it delivered on most fronts. Full review here, in my watchlist thread.

7/10
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Remember - everything has an ending except hope, and sausages - they have two.

Latest Review : Aftersun (2022)





Inside Out 2 (IMAX)

Inside Out 2 is The Empire Strikes Back of the Pixar filmography.

It feels like a natural continuation from the first film, and it also both assumes that you've definitely seen it and that you enjoyed it enough to want watching more of Riley's emotions play out.

Maya Hawke as Riley's Anxiety and Adèle Exarchopoulos as her Ennui are the standouts among newcomers to the voice cast.

It's safe to assume that in exploring Riley's brand-new emotions once she hits puberty the movie will seem spot-on to teenagers, while for those of us past our teenage years, the movie definitely brings back some bittersweet memories.

It's also worth checking out in IMAX; although it doesn't have an expanded AR, the gorgeous animation and music are definitely worth checking out in the largest and loudest screen possible.

And don't forget to stay all the way through the end credits for a good laugh.







Bad Boys 4 is a lot of fun. No, it doesn't add much we didn't see in the last two movies, but it's still a ton of fun, and gives us a good wrap-up of the series (as with every IP, until the inevitable reboot).





RIP www.moviejustice.com 2002-2010
Watched two films this evening, both of which are currently on Criterion Channel:

The Rules of the Game (1939, Renoir) - B



I enjoyed many of the innovative technical details and I appreciated what it was going for, but the satire and dialogue left me a bit cold and the characters seemed more archetypes and too indistinguishable from each other to really hit home for me. The rabbit hunt scene was truly great and something entirely unique in film, especially during 1939 or up until that point. After awhile I just got confused on who was married to whom and then having an affair with whom and then who was in love and pursuing whom. It's a great film to be sure from a technical point of view and its ambition in providing a satire on a France on the verge of existential crisis and war with the Nazis at their doorstep, but as far as Renoir goes, I think Grand Illusion and The River are far, far better because I don't think this film or Renoir has as tight of a command on an ensemble piece as opposed to a film that is more central character focused. I probably do need to return to it at some point for a second watch.

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Come Back, Africa (1959, Lionel Rogosin) - A+



This film made me absolutely ill. It's a masterpiece. Plain and simple. It's an interesting narrative documentary filmed in South Africa's Johannesburg and is focused on a main character Zachariah and his family and struggles to find work and fight against poverty and apartheid during this time period. It's plays out like a documentary, but there are characters and a clear and cohesive story. I love how real this seemed and how truly spontaneous and random, just as life plays out, and I think its amazing how music was so pivotal to the story here and some of the musical interludes and moments were just spectacular. Again, I'm floored by this film and still processing at the time of this writing. I do appreciate the discussions on race in this film, but I think all to often, our society has a tendency to attribute to race what is more accurately explained and examined through poverty. Without going to far into my conservative lens here, there isn't a single racial or ethnic group in the world that hasn't at some point in time or place on the globe been subjected to cruel racism and discrimination, yet not every group has been subsequently proportionately affected by poverty as a consequence of that racial targeting and hate. As such to label racism as "the greatest evil" is too simple of a villain to exclusively target and can act as an easy scapegoat instead of examining issues such as poverty and hopelessness with more of a deep dive.

While it seems like, from what little I've read, many critics and historians see Come Back, Africa as a condemnation of segregation - and yes, it is certainly that, I however see it more as an objective look at how cold and unyieldingly cruel poverty can be. In fact this film ranks up there as one of the all time most harrowing when it does come to the issue of poverty right along side King of the Hill, Umberto D, The Bicycle Thieves, Germany Year Zero, Midnight Cowboy, Angela's Ashes, City Lights, and a handful of others. It is all of those films equals in how it tackles the subject, but Come Back, Africa may be the most bleak of them all. One thing I think it does get right about poverty that many films miss... is the emotional toll and the sense of hopelessness and the void of feeling there is no escape. Many films portray poverty as something of a hardship, an unwanted adventure, a thing to overcome and to conquer. Many lesser films focus on the tangible things such as being too cold or too hot, being hungry, living in dirty, cramped, and disgusting tiny spaces and the shame of having to beg, steal, or borrow. Come Back, Africa is one of the few films that actually hits the nail on the head in showing how people in the deepest rungs of poverty suffer perhaps the most in the sense of being "below institutions" or being less than human and a sense that they could exist or not exist because they are simply invisible and nothing with no one coming to save them or even knowing that they need saved in the first place or even caring.

This is a film that really seems to nail down the psychological and spiritual and emotional devastation of poverty and how it can absolutely destroy the soul and human dignity and faith in humanity, which is far more disastrous than an empty belly. The film gets darker, and darker as it goes on too. The last five minutes of this film are about as dark and tragic as cinema can get.

It's a masterpiece in the most unsettling of ways.
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Knives Out
- I liked this and it kept my attention throughout. I wonder if I'm being a little harsh and/or whether this would've hit better had I not already seen Season 1 of Poker Face? Unlike the rest of the world I didn't fall in love with Daniel Craig as Benoit. He didn't really entertain me and I felt he was just perfunctory to do what the character did i.e. be the detective. Maybe it was that I kept picturing Tommy Lee Jones in the role because the voice reminded me of him as Clay in J.F.K. or whether it's because I'm not used to that voice coming from him? It doesn't usually bother me, so it probably isn't that. But something didn't work for me. I'd much rather have had a sequel about Marta but, of course, that wouldn't have been a murder/mystery. At least, you'd hope it wasn't.
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5-time MoFo Award winner.



Knives Out
- I liked this and it kept my attention throughout. I wonder if I'm being a little harsh and/or whether this would've hit better had I not already seen Season 1 of Poker Face? Unlike the rest of the world I didn't fall in love with Daniel Craig as Benoit. He didn't really entertain me and I felt he was just perfunctory to do what the character did i.e. be the detective. Maybe it was that I kept picturing Tommy Lee Jones in the role because the voice reminded me of him as Clay in J.F.K. or whether it's because I'm not used to that voice coming from him? It doesn't usually bother me, so it probably isn't that. But something didn't work for me. I'd much rather have had a sequel about Marta but, of course, that wouldn't have been a murder/mystery. At least, you'd hope it wasn't.
I didn’t like this movie, but thumbs up because I’m surprised to see you watch and review anything.





Needle in a Timestack - (2021)

Interesting movie about love in a reality where time travel is a common thing... for those who can afford it. A bit on the slow side, but still entertaining.
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A very very modest little indie movie set in Oregon. Nothing much happened, but I rather enjoyed it.
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Sometimes I Think About Dying is probably the ultimate Portland movie...



RIP www.moviejustice.com 2002-2010


My Darling Clementine (John Ford / 1946)
Red River (Howard Hawks / 1948)

I went and got myself two classics here!

So, soooo much to respond here. I'll gather my thoughts as I want to respond since you took the time and thought for that great write-up. Thank you so much! Any love westerns and the genre can get and analysis of the deep themes within them, are always welcome.

Just a few quick reactions here. Red River is my all time favorite film and yes Rio Bravo is also great, but I give the slight edge to Red River because largely Wayne's character has a bit more depth and plays off of Clift so well. More on that later.

I also do adore My Darling Clementine and it too is a great and amazing film... on of John Ford's highest accomplishments. Both are A+ films for me... easily masterpieces of not only westerns, but just of cinema.

I will add however, that My Darling Clementine is a loose remake of an earlier film from the greatest year of 1939, Frontier Marshal with Randolph Scott (Wyatt Earp) and Cesar Romero (Doc Holliday). I have a soft spot for Frontier Marshal and while, from an objective point of view My Darling Clementine IS the better film, I think I prefer Frontier Marshal as it's more bizarre, carnivalesque, and raw than the polished and well crafted My Darling Clementine. Also, while Henry Ford and Victor Mature are spectacular... I just have a soft spot and a weakness for Randolph Scott and Cesar Romeo in the same roles. In fact one of my all time favorite moments in film is in Frontier Marshal when Cesar Romeo in a drunk and self-loathing rage at the bar, pulls out his gun and shoots his image in the mirror. It's one of the more powerful and interesting moments and shots in a western that I've seen.

So yeah, My Darling Clementine is the better film, but man oh man, something about Frontier Marshal just gets at me and I'm torn between Jason Robards in Hour of the Gun and Cesar Romeo as my all time favorite portrayal of Doc Holliday in film. As Wayne says in Rio Bravo, "I wouldn't want to have to live on the difference."

Frontier Marshal is available on youtube too in its entirety:




RIP www.moviejustice.com 2002-2010


Red River (Howard Hawks / 1948)


BTW, Red River is based on a story by the writer Borden Chase, who also worked on the screenplay. Chase also did the screenplays for the first three Anthony Mann / James Stewart Westerns, including 1952's Bend of the River. I swear to God, no one can write a threat like Borden Chase. Here's John Wayne to Montgomery Clift in the Hawks film: "Cherry was right. You're soft, you should have let 'em kill me, 'cause I'm gonna kill you. I'll catch up with ya. I don't know when, but I'll catch up. Every time you turn around, expect to see me, 'cause one time you'll turn around and I'll be there. I'm gonna kill ya, Matt." And here's James Stewart to Arthur Kennedy in Mann's film: "You'll be seeing me. You'll be seeing me. Every time you bed down for the night, you'll look back to the darkness and wonder if I'm there. And some night, I will be. You'll be seeing me!" Gives you goosebumps, right?
By the way, since you were keen enough to bring up one of the absolute best scenes and pieces of dialogue in Red River... which is saying a lot for an entire film that is great dialogue and just one great scene right after another, you highlighted what is an example that I often give for anyone who says John Wayne can't act.

And here's the thing... he's playing that part of the film against/with Monty Clift who just "stole" his cattle heard. Wayne's character hasn't slept in days at that point, he's been shot, he's "lost" his life's work, he's been on the trail for weeks... months, has been through a stampede at that point and long term he saw his "cattle kingdom" lose value due to the Civil War... he's a completely broken man at that point in the film, and for a "tough guy" he's rarely been more vulnerable and weak on screen.

WHY it's a great, great, GREAT performance is that he's under Hawk's direction AND Wayne knows how to react to other actors and knows how to play a scene. He's a frickin' artist and an actor who isn't an artist would have played that scene completely wrong. He would have stood up, raised his voice, yelled, got in Clift's face, towered over him and used intimidation and physicality, wild-eyed threatrics.

Wayne doesn't do that. Wayne speaks quietly, looks off in the distance, is clearly in physical and emotional pain, can barely stay awake, and is weakly leaning against the horse as he can barely stand up, let alone walk or get in a fight... and even in that completely weak state... makes a threat... nay a regretful and tragically sad promise. It's not a man who is posturing, showing off, or mugging to the camera. This is a man who is making a promise and means what he says. He's not even "happy" about having to do that. He's doing it relunctantly and doesn't want to kill Clift's character, but he's stuck to his solem sense of honor and his code. It's not a thing he wants to do, but rather in that moment he sees it as his duty, "I'm gonna kill ya, Matt." Moreover after words, the moment of silence minus the Dimitri Tiomkin score, where Wayne watches him walk and ride away with his herd, is great non-verbal acting.

It's an amazing piece of acting, writing, directing, and Clift plays off of it so perfect. Anyone who could watch that scene or entire film and tell me Wayne can't act, knows nothing about film or the art of acting.




Trouble with a capital "T"
Red River...Anyone who could watch that scene or entire film and tell me Wayne can't act, knows nothing about film or the art of acting.
Count me as a fan of Red River...Wayne is great in that one. He was often at his best when he wasn't in westerns. I think he was excellent in: The Shepherd of the Hills, Wake of the Red Witch, Without Reservations...just to name a few of his lesser known films.



Count me as a fan of Red River...Wayne is great in that one. He was often at his best when he wasn't in westerns. I think he was excellent in: The Shepherd of the Hills, Wake of the Red Witch, Without Reservations...just to name a few of his lesser known films.
Wayne was actually a very good actor. The Hippies made fun of him due to his macho patriotism.

The Quiet Man (1952) is one of my favorite of Wayne's. It's a great appealing comedy with a phenomenal cast and director, which I've watched 10 times. I also like Operation Pacific (1951), but it may be because he and Patrica O'Neal sizzled...