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Laurie Metcalf was so good in Internal Affairs. "Plus he was rude to me!"

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
An average gangster movie, not to say a mediocre one. Quite amateurish screening of influences by the obviously inmatured brothers.
Jon Polito was the only good thing here. It was hard to finish it, so uninteresting it turned to be. Just skip it and move to something better.

"Population don't imitate art, population imitate bad television." W.A.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." M.T.

Forgive me for re-posting this review, but I fell short on time at my computer session at the local library yesterday, and I was unable to finish my reviews of Monkey Man and Civil War. Below is a complete review of all the films I've seen at my local movie theater on April 9 and 16, 2024.

APRIL 9, 2024:
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Adam Wingard / 2024)
The First Omen (Arkasha Stevenson / 2024)

APRIL 16, 2024:
Monkey Man (Dev Patel / 2024)
Civil War (Alex Garland / 2024)

Well! So much to unpack... so little time! But hey, I'll give it a shot...

My little monster mash last Tuesday was nothing much to write about. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is the latest FX bonanza to feature a lot of CG behemoths flailing about and knocking each other into next Tuesday (see what I did there? ), ultimately to little or no avail. I wouldn't quite make a claim of this being just a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. But it amounts to a paltry minimum. Just color me very underwhelmed. I'm also sick and tired of seeing all these movies in which monsters or superbeings throw each other about and smash each other into buildings - y'know, big tall edifices of steel and glass in which people live and work in, for God's sake! I mean, does this not enter into the screenwriters' or the director's or the FX wizards' minds - at all?? Or do we just simply shrug it off and regard all those poor smashed-up people as mere collateral damage? Simply just necessary sacrifices to the spectacle? Or am I simply just overreacting like crazy? Well... perhaps. But my dissatisfaction remains regardless. I can trace the very first time I started to feel uneasy about mass destruction as cinematic spectacle to my very first viewing of Roland Emmerich's Independence Day back in 1996. (Before the horrors of September 11, 2001, take note.) Back then, I sort of shrugged off my humanist discontent as being inapplicable to any sort of valid criticism of a summer blockbuster, but later developments - or should I say degenerations - within the creative side of this kind of FX-laden cinematic spectacular filmmaking over the years have borne out those discontents. Hey, that's just how I feel. Deal with it...

The horror prequel The First Omen, on the other hand, was actually halfway decent. At least it was better than the 2006 remake of the 1976 original! But that's not really saying all that much. Of course I was immediately reminded of the recent Immaculate (which I had just seen the week before on April 2), in that both films deal with the diabolically-inspired pregnancy of a nun instigated by fanatical extremist elements within the Catholic Church. Admittedly, that's something of a new and "provocative" wrinkle within the Omen franchise. (I put "provocative" in scare quotes because trying to do or say anything casting the Church in a sinister light has become a rather tired cliché at this point. Not without justification to some extent, but a cliché just the same.) It's also worth noting how much of a '70s Euro-horror vibe has started to creep into the Hollywood satanic-horror genre. I already pointed out the similarities to the work of Argento in my recent review of Immaculate (y'know, the little American lamb abroad in decadent Europe and discovering scary things happening, a la Suspiria or Phenomena). And once it's time for our little infant anti-Christ to finally enter the world, our much put-upon heroine (in this case played by Nell Tiger Free) starts to manifest symptoms that immediately made me think, "No, wait a minute. That can't be, she can't... is she really...? Yes! Holy s***, she is actually channeling Isabelle Adjani in 1981's Possession!" (BTW, if you've seen that Andrzej Zulawski cult classic, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!) So ultimately, it comes down to... is The First Omen actually any good? Well... it's not awful, mind you. And it's actually a couple notches above Immaculate. But that's not really saying a heck of a lot overall, is it? So I guess I can rank nun-themed horror movies alongside big glossy Japan-originated monster mash-ups as things which are pretty well played out for me.

Dev Patel's Monkey Man, on the other hand, is really something else! Yes, it's basically one of those one-man army Revenge-O-Matic action thrillers that - just like giant monster mash-ups and diabolically-impregnated nuns - have proliferated like piranha fish over the years. But this one has got a number of interesting wrinkles to it. Set in modern India, it has interesting spiritual and mythological themes, as well as a left-leaning political slant. Our hero (played by Patel) is out to avenge the rape and murder of his mother at the hands of a corrupt police chief who has forced out the inhabitants of their village in order to acquire the land for the benefit of corrupt spiritual guru. Many years later, our hero is working as a monkey-masked fighter in a boxing club where is paid to lose, and eventually he infiltrates a luxury brothel frequented by the aforementioned police chief. But when his assassination attempt goes awry, he has to fight his way out of the building, getting shot by the police and narrowly escaping death and/or arrest. He is eventually nursed back to health by the priest of a temple belonging to the oft-persecuted transgender community, or hijara. After taking an hallucinogenic drug to confront the trauma of the memory of his mother's death and physically training himself, he resumes his mission of vengeance, fighting not only to avenge his mother but also for the nation's downtrodden and disenfranchised.

Co-produced by Jordan Peele, and with Dev Patel performing double duty as action man hero and director (now that's stamina!), Monkey Man can perhaps be compared with the films of the John Wick franchise for its flamboyantly hyper-kinetic ultraviolence, but it also deals with themes of political corruption, poverty and discrimination. It's definitely the only film I've seen in which towards the end, a group of transgender female warriors (the aforementioned hijara) shows up to aid the outnumbered hero in his time of need and help kick the crap out of a well-trained goon squad! Also, while definitely being a very violent movie, Monkey Man is not exclusively masculinist in its concerns. It has a definite sympathy with the underclass, with women and with social minorities. If that's too "woke" for some people, so be it. But the film can hardly be considered preachy in its execution, and in terms of sheer visceral kick it has few competitors in contemporary action cinema. Y'know, if anything, I felt slightly alienated by the aforementioned John Wick films' violent sequences because they were perhaps a bit too clinical and clean in their execution. (I've only seen the first three on Blu-ray, but then only once. I haven't rewatched them.) On the other hand, Monkey Man's violence, while excessive, is ultimately redeemed by its sense of pain and trauma. In other words, it's messy. But then, so always is the fight for social justice.

When I first saw the trailer for the new Civil War, my first reaction was, This is a rather cool and timely idea for a film in 2024. My second reaction, on the other hand, was that of, This is something that can quite easily go wrong in so many ways!. Or rather, specifically I was thinking of two ways: 1) The movie could make the mistake of taking cheap shots at the current election-year situation in order to score easy political points. And 2) The movie could make the mistake of being too evasive in the interest of not offending anybody. One definite red flag for me was when I learned that the two secessionist states which were fighting against the U.S. government were California and Texas (whose politics are definitely on opposite sides of the spectrum if not necessarily the furthest ends). I hoped for the best from the film, but I was definitely bracing myself for a cop-out of the first order. As it turns out, I needn't have worried. First of all, I'll just say when I saw Alex Garland credited as writer/director in the trailer I relaxed a little bit, knowing that his were the best possible hands for a movie like this to be in. I hadn't seen any of his earlier directorial efforts, but I was a huge fan of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Sunshine, which I knew he had written, so I had a good reason to be optimistic. And Garland quite expertly walked that tightrope and delivered a very moving, disquieting and compelling film with Civil War.

It should be said that although the trailer leads one to expect a big, full-on epic treatment of the theme of civil war in America, the film is actually a lot more intimate than that. The story specifically concerns itself with a trio of journalists and photographers who are traveling cross-country to Washington, D.C., in the hopes of getting an interview or a photograph with the president (Nick Offerman) - now in an unprecedented third term - before the collapse of the government. These media veterans are joined by a young woman with aspirations toward becoming a photographer herself. The relationship with the veteran war photographer Lee (Kirsten Dunst) and the younger woman Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) who idolizes her, is a very interesting one, and more or less provides the emotional backbone of the film. Because the hardened Lee has traveled around the world and seen all manner of horrifying things in the war zones she's covered, and consequently has become emotionally calloused, while the younger Jessie has to initially come to grips with all the terrible things the group comes across in their cross-country journey. There is very much a dynamic here similar to that of Naomie Harris' Selena and Cillian Murphy's Jim in 28 Days Later, in that the hardened older survivor is reluctant to have to take care of and give comfort to the younger character after experiencing the more disturbing and traumatic events. (And the similarities with 28 Days Later certainly don't end there, in my opinion. The distance between civil war and zombie apocalypse - excuse me, rage virus apocalypse - is not that far, at least for Garland.)

Although as I said, the film's preoccupations are more intimate and character-related, the film definitely possesses a sense of the large and the epic. It also doesn't skimp on action. There is a major action sequence at the end which deals with the siege of D.C., and it's definitely a doozy. And the quieter character-based scenes are quite often directly followed by a jump straight into a violent action scene involving loud gunfire. The jump from one to the other can be quite jarring and startling at times, so any viewer of the film would be strongly advised to brace themselves! And while Civil War really isn't terribly on the nose with matters relating to the current political scene, there is a very intense sequence involving a uniformed militia who are responsible for some sort of atrocity and are first shown dumping bodies into a mass grave and covering them with lye, and whose leader (an uncredited Jesse Plemons) threatens our heroes at gunpoint and demands to know what "kind" of Americans they are. (Believe me, this moment plays a lot less cute in the film than it does in the trailer!) The subtle implication is that although right-wing politicians may not have any genuine racist or nationalist beliefs themselves (assuming they believe in anything besides that which gives them the most votes), they implicitly rely on the aid and support of those who do. (BTW, when Plemons and his ultranationalist cohorts get their just desserts - no spoilers, so I won't say how it happens - I swear I haven't jumped out of my seat higher or pumped my fist into the air harder inside a movie theater since Toby Jones shot Marcia Gay Harden in Frank Darabont's 2007 film of Stephen King's The Mist!) Certainly the President in the movie, while certainly not specifically cast in the mould of Donald Trump, seems willing to do or say anything in order to hold onto what remains of his power. In the very first scene, in fact, the President is shown rehearsing and going over the words of a big political speech, mulling over their effectiveness while the camera editorally intercuts with images of violence and bloodshed on the nation's streets outside. The empathetic disconnect between the ambitions of people in power and the consequences of their actions and policies is thus made obvious right from the jump. And ultimately, it's the issue of empathy that Civil War is primarily concerned with, not politics. There's also a great scene where our group stops into an idyllic small town that seemingly hasn't been touched by the conflict. They ask a clerk in a clothing store if she is aware of what's going on in the world outside. She replies that she feels like it would be the best thing to just keep one's head down and not get involved. And although the trailer makes a humorous moment out of this line, making the young woman seem insensitive and clueless, it plays much differently in the actual movie. We actually find ourselves sympathizing with her, probably feeling like, yeah, if the s*** really hit the fan and under similar circumstances, most of us would probably want to keep our heads down and wait for the storm to pass.

Like I said, I won't give any spoilers, but the ending of the movie - although upbeat to a certain extent - is quite disquieting in the extreme. By the end of the film, the young Jessie has definitely gotten into the swing of things and is throwing herself into her role as junior war photographer. And the very last shot of the film is a still image of one of her photographs. In a sense, she has become the older Lee at this point, or at least is well on her way. And that very last image - while representing a victory of sorts - raises a lot of disturbing questions and potentially makes us feel slightly complicit in what's gone on before. Does this represent the ultimate failure of empathy? I'm not sure, but it's definitely not your usual "happy ending." It will certainly linger on in the viewer's mind long after the film has ended, and to me that is the ultimate acid test of any work of cinema that hopes to make a long-term impact.

Good soundtrack, too. Very effective use is made of the music of '70s alt-rock legends Suicide, in particular Rocket U.S.A. and Dream Baby Dream.

Recommendations? Certainly for Monkey Man and definitely for Civil War.

And as far as Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and The First Omen are concerned? Well... If you absolutely, positively must see every single entry within those franchises, then yeah, sure! But I certainly wouldn't consider them the best of those particular series.
"It's what people know about themselves inside that makes 'em afraid." - Clint Eastwood as The Stranger, High Plains Drifter (1973)

I forgot the opening line.

By This poster can be obtained from Paramount Pictures, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72494555

Scream VI - (2023)

First thoughts on Letterboxd : "Well, I can see that a lot of effort went into this one - and that includes all the contortions, reintroductions, carry-over characters, continued plot strands and new characters. More than story and screenplay however, the action and horror makes the grade. So all-up, this was a perfectly acceptable franchise addition, and I'd expect fans of the series to really enjoy it. I've always been a little on the fence as far as all the Scream sequels go - like I've heard some people say, it's basically Scooby Doo in slasher form. I appreciate effort though, and I'm happy it was as successful as it was." Second thoughts : at least there's a smidge of real horror in it. Imagine being stabbed in the nose - yeesh. It's mostly young blood now, without the return of Neve Campbell and no David Arquette there's only Courteney Cox to carry that original torch, and a few brief moments where Skeet Ulrich gets to play Billy Loomis from the original. Dermot Mulroney is the only other actor I know on a name basis.


By IMDb, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68297635

Vortex - (2021)

The best way to describe Vortex is to say it's basically Gaspar Noé's version of Michael Haneke's Amour. A split screen comes into effect when old characters played by Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun become psychologically split from each other due to the latter's dementia. This is an especially powerful and haunting film - full review here, in my watchlist thread.

Remember - everything has an ending except hope, and sausages - they have two.
We miss you Takoma

Latest Review : Aftersun (2022)

Based on the true story. Excellent movie. Shot in very harsh conditions, which made it very real.

Realized when I’d finished that I had seen this movie before. Duh. Whatever, I enjoyed it again. One of Clooney’s better movies for sure.
I’m here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. That’s why I’m here now.

An average gangster movie, not to say a mediocre one. Quite amateurish screening of influences by the obviously inmatured brothers.
Jon Polito was the only good thing here. It was hard to finish it, so uninteresting it turned to be. Just skip it and move to something better.

Wow, liked this movie a lot more than you did...a link to my review:


1st Rewatch...My vote for the worst movie adaptation of an SNL sketch. The movie does have a small cult following, so I decided to give it another chance, but the same thing bothered me this viewing that bothered me the first time...I just couldn't get past the almost incestuous vibe to the relationship between brothers Steve (Will Ferrell) and Doug (Chris Kattan), an "ick" factor that floats over the whole film. The only real laughs in this film come from Molly Shannon as Steve's horny fiancee and Dan Hedaya as the guys' always angry father.

4th Rewatch...One of my favorite Denzel performances in one of his most underrated films . Denzel plays a financially strapped factory work whose son needs a heart transplant but the hospital won't put his son on the donor list because he can't pay for the surgery, so John takes a gun to the hospital and takes a disparate group of hostages in the emergency room and threatens to kill them unless his son goes on the donor list. I love the way the story provides a nice balance of people for John's hostages, it's not just sick and injured people...two doctors, an orderly, a security guard are also among the hostages. I especially loved the inclusion of a sexist jerk (Shawn Hatosy, in the performance of his career) who is there with his girlfriend, who has suffered severe injuries courtesy of her boyfriend. I also love that this one of the few films where Denzel doesn't play a doctor or a lawyer or a cop or a civil rights leader. John Q is just a regular guy trying to keep a roof over his family's head who is at the end of his rope. James Kearne's unapologetic screenplay is not only a dead on look at the rising costs of medical treatment but of the human condition, through the media circus that manifests itself from what John is doing. Have never been able to figure out how Denzel didn't get an Oscar nomination for this powerhouse performance, but was nominated for Roman J Israel, Esq. Shout outs to Kymberly Elise as Mrs. John Q, James Woods and Anne Heche as the insensitive hospital administrators, Robert Duvall as the hostage negotiator, and the late Ray Liotta as the chief of police. Appointment viewing for Denzel fans.

Documentary about the making of the Society of the Snow movie shown above. Very interesting. And arduous.

(2023, Hargrave)

"Believe it or not, it's pretty difficult to let someone you care about die. But you fought your way back. You just have to find out why."

Extraction 2 picks up right after the first one, as Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is rescued barely alive from the aftermath of the previous mission. After months of recovery, he is brought back into the fold to rescue his ex-wife's sister and two children. The catch? She happens to be married to one of the leaders of a dangerous Georgian crime organization, and the family has been forced to live in the prison where he's being held, which is where Rake has to extract them from.

But yeah, the setpieces and action scenes are excellent as well. This includes yet another impressive and thrilling "one shot" that lasts around 20 minutes, and includes numerous fist fights, knife fights, gun fights, a prison riot, a sequence on board of a train, more explosions, and Hemsworth on fire, to name a few. Hearing director Sam Hargrave talk about how little to no CGI they used makes it all more impressive.


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

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Albert Finney

I've just learned about this movie. What a cast, directed by Sidney Lumet, wow!
Very good crime thriller. Just one issue - the completely unnecessary porn scene that opens the movie. You can skip it, just start it at 4:00 min. Otherwise, Hoffman at his best here.


Croupier (1998)

A nice low key British thriller. Clive Owen carries the storyline well as the frustrated writer getting info from everyday work at a gambling establishment. The voiceover works to get a better idea of his "angle" and it all hangs together well. A loveable rogue but in above his head. I thing Jack knows that too.

I forgot the opening line.

By Searchlight Pictures - Twitter, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73362430

Quasi - (2023)

Last year I managed to watch all of the films nominated in the MoFo Film Awards that I hadn't seen yet, which is not an easy feat - but since I managed it I had to try it again this year, and with Quasi I'm finally finished. 30 films all-up - made it with just under a week to spare. I feel like I've well and truly caught up with 2023. The worst thing about doing this are the last few films - I always watch the ones I was dying to see anyway first, and by the time I get to the dregs it's the "Worst Film", "Most Disappointing" and "Mixed Bag" categories, which throw up a few that aren't easy to sit through. Quasi was the film I wanted to see the absolute least.

Anyway : Quasi simply isn't very funny. I know that Broken Lizard are usually dependable, and have made a few good comedies (Super Troopers is the one I know and like), but they struggle with this take on The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which in it's best moments is amusing, but fails to elicit laughter. Good comedy, like any successful artistic endeavour, requires inspired imagination - and for whatever reason this wasn't available either when the script was being written or during moments of improv. That said, I didn't hate it or find it contemptable. Just lacking. Comedy is hard, and exposes you when you're not hitting that mark dead on. Steve Lemme seemed to be doing the right thing with the main character, but simply lacked anything funny to say or do aside from one or two moments when I was genuinely surprised, and even then just a chuckle. The others were all worse than he was. So, what can I say? Not many extras and sparse sets means that there's not much else going on. I've seen my fair share of these laughless comedies over the years.


Home From the Hill (1960) ‐

This is one of the most interesting breakdowns of toxic masculinity I've seen in a long time. Part of the reason it packs such a punch is how cleverly it tricks you into warming up to Wade. What initially starts off as a silent battle between a married couple to have their son grow up under their influence soon fizzles out once the film fixates more and more on Wade while Hannah is pushed further and further to the sidelines. Seeing how Wade's influence causes Theron's reputation to grow amongst a group of hunters who initially didn't think much of him and how his life is improved from spending time around Rafe leads one to have faith that everything will turn out well and that Theron made the right choice after all. Wade's reputation amongst the town and the first scene though are hard to ignore and, the more hints which pop up (Albert's strong distrust of Theron), the clearer it becomes that the bubble we built up around Wade is about to burst.

Once the inevitable mid‐film reveal comes along, the film turns from really good to excellent due to a couple reasons. First, it fully realizes its critique of masculinity. Being a skilled hunter and the wealthiest person in town, Wade appears to have it all at first glance, but learning about Rafe's familial ties and Wade's cruel rejection of him due to his inability to commit to the consequences of his mistakes makes him seem like a pathetic person deep down who has all kinds of insecurities. Wade's points of "pride" are limited to him being a womanizer and the best hunter in the town. The group of hunters he spends so much time around don't have much to show for themselves either and largely exist somewhat in his shadow.

More significantly though, the second half reveal allows the film to branch out and explore the scope of the people Wade impacted. Because instead of just touching on the jealous husbands out to get revenge, it expands its scope to Wade's immediate family (and even his hunting dogs to an extent, given the boar hunt).
WARNING: spoilers below
The impact Wade has on Theron involves his hesitancy to commit to his relationship with Libby and progress up the social ladder since he'd have to leave Rafe in the dust in the process, who's far less fortunate than him. Their scenes in the final act contain a ton of humanity and the final couple conversations between them are especially powerful since it's clear throughout them that Theron wants Rafe to enjoy the life he initially had little chance of getting.
At first, Hannah didn't stick out to me that much, but upon reflection, I was struck by how rough her situation is. Due to her strained relationship with Wade, saving Theron from his influence is all she can hope for, yet she lacks the strength to breach the barrier her husband has built up. Her best effort to fix everything only serves to cause more problems for both Theron and herself. There's also a lot to be said about the sheer contrast between Wade and Rafe. In spite of his lack of wealth and consideration for his well‐being, Rafe has a degree of nobility and genuine compassion that's sorely lacking in Wade. Financially speaking, Rafe lacks everything Wade has, yet is still twice the man he is on almost all levels.

WARNING: spoilers below
Once the constant framing and reframing of the characters is all said and done, we get a nuanced ending which is hopeful only to some of the characters we rooted for. It's tragic in a sense, yet it gives another character a much better outcome than one might've expected. It's somehow the happiest ending one could expect from this setting.

The Beast
Minus (yeah, that's minus two popcorns)

If it had not been so visually interesting and well produced, it would probably get minus four popcorns. I don't feel like writing a plot synopsis for this mess so, from Youtube -

"The year is 2044: artificial intelligence controls all facets of a stoic society as humans routinely “erase” their feelings. Hoping to eliminate pain caused by their past-life romances, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) continually falls in love with different incarnations of Louis (George MacKay). Set first in Belle Époque-era Paris Louis is a British man who woos her away from a cold husband, then in early 21st Century Los Angeles, he is a disturbed American bent on delivering violent “retribution.” Will the process allow Gabrielle to fully connect with Louis in the present, or are the two doomed to repeat their previous fates?."

The Beast has lots of interesting elements thrown willy-nilly into a so-called plot line. That fact that so much of it looks so good just made me more restless since it was not like a 1958 creature feature. It was a movie with a budget. It spans 3 different time spans, although it's never entirely clear which one you're in now. AI that you never actually see is doing something to try to remove human emotions (why? I don't know), while Gabrielle falls in love with various incarnations of a guy who, to me at least, had no appeal at all as a character.

Oh well, hype for this is high, delivery, for me at least, is low. The only thing I actually liked was looking at Lea Seydoux.

1st Rewatch...Cameron Diaz was just on the cusp of being considered an actress of some substance when she made this steaming pile of crap. She plays Elizabeth Halsey, a lazy, arrogant, manipulative, gold digging high school teacher who quits after a year because she's getting married. On her last day of school, she goes home and her fiancee dumps her so she returns to school and decides the answer to all her problems is a boob job and decides to use her students to make it happen. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds and I wouldn't even recommend to hardcore fans of the actress. Somehow, leading men Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel manage to maintain their dignity, but it's films like this one that might have hastened Diaz' premature retirement.