Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

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Here is my final tally for JULY 2021:

A film with the number 7 (Seven, Seventh, etc.) in its title: The Trial of the Chicago 7
A film with a title that starts with the letters M or N: Maps to the Stars, Mustang
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #7 (i.e. 17, 372, 807): The Innocents (#727)
A film from the 1970s: La Cage aux Folles
A musical: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
A film with "America" in its title: American Me
A film with the word "Kiss" in its title (Int'l Kissing Day, July 6): Butterfly Kisses
A film about astronauts or set in space (Moon Day, July 20): 2001: A Space Odyssey
A film from Colombia (Independence Day, July 20): Rodrigo D: No Futuro
A film from Sydney Pollack (born July 1): Tootsie

Freebie: High Noon






Overall, it was a good month with a bunch of really solid watches. My favorite first-time watch was probably between The Innocents, Mustang, and Maps to the Stars.

The weakest film was easily Butterfly Kisses.
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Here are the criteria for AUGUST 2021:

A film with the number 8 (Eight, Eighth, etc.) in its title:
A film with a title that starts with the letters O or P:
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #8 (i.e. 18, 480, 812):
A film from the 1980s:
A romantic film:
A film set in school:
A film from Cecil B. DeMille (born August 12):
A film with "Left" in its title (Lefthanders Day, August 13):
A film from Ukraine (Independence Day, August 24):
A film with the word "Dog" in its title (Dog Day, August 26):


Since this is my birthday month, I'm gathering recommendations as "gifts". Something I did last year too. I've already gotten a couple dozens of recommendations via Twitter, so I have lots of options. However, if anybody here wants to throw his/her hat to the ring, you're more than welcome.



Here is, briefly, how I did in July:

A film with a title that starts with the letters M or N: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) The only Max film I hadn't seen, and of course its reputation is that it's the least of the series, which I'd say is accurate for me. The "Lost Boys" element and the overexplanation of why the world is in the state it's in don't work for me. That said, there are pleasures to be found: Tina Turner as a different kind of antagonist, and Miller's kinetic action make me glad I did finally get round to this one.

A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #7 (i.e. 17, 372, 807): The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962) (#1017) Another fun Karel Zeman live action/animated movie, this one done in a style mimicking Gustave Dore and adapting the stories of the famous fabulist. Entertaining stuff.

A film from the 1970s: McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) I gotta admit I often find Altman difficult. It usually takes me a little time to adjust to his muddled, overlapping dialogue, but I do appreciate his idiosyncratic take on the Western, with a "hero" who has charm but is kind of a dingbat who ultimately finds himself in over his head. Mining Leonard Cohen for his soundtrack doesn't hurt.

A musical: Rent (2005) I'd seen this before and I was hoping I'd like it better this time around. I guess I did a little bit, but not much. It's almost a time capsule of the time the show was made (the mid-'90s) and I think making it into a movie 10 years later just emphasizes its datedness. Add to that director Chris Columbus's reluctance to try anything interesting and there's just not much left to recommend it, aside from the basic talents of the performers.

A film about astronauts or set in space (Moon Day, July 20): First Man Into Space (1959) This B-movie about a cocky pilot determined to be the "first man into space" and his more restrained brother/commander is not without its charms, although the first half does drag a bit. The second half has a bit more pathos, at least.



Haven't seen any of those. I gotta get on the Mad Max train, man.



Haven't seen any of those. I gotta get on the Mad Max train, man.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller is the best of that bunch, and you can skip Rent for sure.

So, have you not seen any of the Mad Max films? If that's the case, you're in for a treat. I'd recommend watching them in order. It's not strictly necessary, because they're all only loosely connected, but it would culminate in Fury Road, which is the apotheosis of Max as far as I'm concerned.



So, have you not seen any of the Mad Max films? If that's the case, you're in for a treat. I'd recommend watching them in order. It's not strictly necessary, because they're all only loosely connected, but it would culminate in Fury Road, which is the apotheosis of Max as far as I'm concerned.
I saw the first one a couple of years ago, which I liked well enough (review), but I haven't been able to catch up with the others.



I saw the first one a couple of years ago, which I liked well enough (review), but I haven't been able to catch up with the others.
Ah, cool. Road Warrior tends to be tricky to find on streaming--both it and Thunderdome are currently on HBOMax, but I think you said you don't have that. Road Warrior is the next best after Fury Road, and probably the one you should watch next when you can.



The Road Warrior is available for rent on Amazon, so I suppose I can shell out the $2-3 any day. You know, being the A-type that I am, I'll probably try to watch them all in order, so we'll see.



THE MONSTER SQUAD
(1987, Dekker)
A film from the 1980s
-- recommended by Josh (from Your Next Favorite Movie Podcast) --



"Didn't you hear a word I said? These guys are dead, get a clue! Something's out there and it's killing people! And if it's monsters, nobody's going to do a thing about it except us!"

The Monster Squad follows a group of kids who band together in order to stop Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and his fellow monsters from taking over the world. This film was strongly recommended by my friend Josh, and as I was watching it, I couldn't stop thinking "how the hell did this film escape me in the 80s??", cause it was tailor-made to my tastes and sensibilities back then.

The film is a bit of a send-up, or homage, to the classic Universal monster films from the 1930s, as it features versions of their characters like Dracula, the Wolfman (Jon Gries), the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay), the "Gill Man" (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), and Frankenstein's monster (Tom Noonan). Their goal is to retrieve a mysterious amulet that would allow them to somehow take over the world.

Fortunately for the world, a group of precocious teenagers who go by the name of Monster Squad decide to take matters in their own hands and stop the monsters. The film takes a humorous approach to the plot, similar to The Goonies, which results in a very breezy and entertaining experience. Most of the kids aren't necessarily great actors, but they're all very likable and easy to root for. That said, Regehr is very good as Dracula.

There are some things that haven't aged that well. There are some homophobic slurs in the first half, and a "peeping tom" situation that is repeatedly used as a butt of jokes. Also, although the makeup and practical effects are decent, other special effects aren't as good. Finally, there are some logistic issues about the conclusion that might feel a bit too convenient, but I won't deny the fact that I had a blast with this.

Grade:



Since this is my birthday month, I'm gathering recommendations as "gifts". Something I did last year too. I've already gotten a couple dozens of recommendations via Twitter, so I have lots of options. However, if anybody here wants to throw his/her hat to the ring, you're more than welcome.
I recently watched Booksmart on Hulu and enjoyed it quite a bit. The two leads especially had a great chemistry together. If you're looking for something fun, I'd recommend it.
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Captain's Log
My Collection



Since this is my birthday month, I'm gathering recommendations as "gifts". Something I did last year too. I've already gotten a couple dozens of recommendations via Twitter, so I have lots of options. However, if anybody here wants to throw his/her hat to the ring, you're more than welcome.
Here are my favorite films, if that helps. You've probably seen most of them, but you might be able to get a couple recommendations off of it.



Here are my favorite films, if that helps. You've probably seen most of them, but you might be able to get a couple recommendations off of it.
I've seen 22 from your list. The ones I haven't seen are...

  1. A Moment of Innocence
  2. The Travelling Players
  3. It Happened One Night
  4. Man with a Movie Camera
  5. Andrei Rublev
  6. The Wild Bunch
  7. Koyaanisqatsi
  8. City Lights
  9. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
  10. Touch of Evil
  11. Le Samourai
  12. To Be or Not to Be
  13. Seconds
  14. All That Jazz
  15. Chimes at Midnight
  16. The House Is Black

There are a couple I had never heard of, others I've been meaning to watch for a while, and one that was just assigned to me on the Personal Recommendation HoF, so at least I'll get to that one (if I do finish, that is)



YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT
(2020, Koepp)
A film with the word "Left" in its title
-- recommended by VHUS_Podcast --



"People have always stayed in that house. Some don't leave. The right ones usually find the place. Or perhaps it's the other way around. The place finds them."

Films about haunted houses and guests at the verge of madness are a dime a dozen. We've all seen it a thousand times, from classics like The Haunting or The Shining, to more modern fare like The Others and Session 9, or weaker efforts like Thirteen Ghosts. Some of them work, others not so much, others fall more on a weird middle-ground where you're not sure where to go with them. That is the case with David Koepp's latest psychological spookfest.

You Should Have Left follows Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon), a retired banker that decides to take a break in a secluded rent-a-house in Wales. In for the ride are Theo's young wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) and young daughter, Ella (Avery Essex). But as is expected, shortly after arriving, weird occurrences start happening around the house, lights turning on and off, shadows in the corners, doors in places where they shouldn't be.

As the film progresses, Theo finds himself more tormented by these incidents, while his relationship with Susanna starts to crumble because of the insecurity and paranoia, as well as the weight of past secrets. Despite what might seem like a tired premise, the setup is intriguing and there are some solid scares and eerie moments. Unfortunately, as is usual with this kind of films, it kinda crumbles as it falls victim to tropes and cliches while also trying to explain too much.

What keeps it afloat all the way are the performances. Both Seyfried and Essex are pretty good in their roles, but the weight of it all falls on Bacon, who effectively portrays a combination of genuine love for his daughter and the despair and desperation against all the things that are happening.

Overall, the film doesn't reach the levels of greatness one would want, but it's still a somewhat atmospheric entry to the subgenre that might be worth a watch on a slow night.

Grade:



THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
(1994, Darabont)
Birthday freebie



"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

Our lives are full of ups and downs. From the seemingly petty and minuscule problems of our youth, to the deep-seated frustrations and serious life-changing situations of our adulthood. Through most of those issues, we are left with mainly two choices: wallow in the despair and hopelessness of the situation, or embrace the hope that things can change AND work towards that change. That's the core philosophy that I always get from this film, my favorite of all-time.

Starting in the late 1940s, The Shawshank Redemption follows Andy (Tim Robbins), a banker that is wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. After being sent to the brutal Shawshank Prison, he befriends long-time convict Red (Morgan Freeman), as the two develop a friendship that would alter the course of both of their lives.

To those that have known me before MoFo, my love for this film is probably widely known. Ever since I first saw it back in the mid-1990s, while going through some "petty" romantic frustrations of my teens, the film instilled in me that philosophy I mentioned in the opening paragraph: I could wallow in my frustrations and get stuck where I was, or I could assure myself that things can change, and move towards that. "Get busy living or get busy dying".

As juvenile and inconsequential as my issues at that moment might've been, I've pretty much made that my philosophy of life against any life problems and situations I've faced since. From health issues to economical problems, from career frustrations to more adult relationship situations, I always try to embrace the hope that things can, and will change, and get busy working for that.

After rewatching the film for the gazillion time a couple of days ago on my birthday, 25+ years after the first time, I can say it remains as magical, profound, and meaningful to me. Not only is it masterfully directed and shot, but the honest and endearing performances from Robbins and Freeman are always moving, always affecting; a testimony of how, yes, a friendship, but also your own actions and attitude towards life can help keep you alive, hopeful, and free.

Grade:



DAY OF THE FIGHT
(1951, Kubrick)
Freebie



"The fight Walter's riding to now in a friends car, may bring him nearer to the middleweight crown. When it's over, there will be another one coming along. And another one after that. Always it's fighting and training and fighting again"

Day of the Fight is Stanley Kubrick's first short documentary film. It follows middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he prepares for a championship fight in New York. During the 10-minute short, Kubrick frequently emphasizes how hard the "waiting" is for Cartier, as we see him have breakfast, spend time with his brother (and manager), walk around New York, have a medical exam, train, etc.

I suppose it was way overdue for me to catch up on Kubrick short films, which I'm not sure why I hadn't seen before. He's my favorite director and, as part of my research for my next podcast episode, I decided to finally face his first two. There's not much to say about them. They're fairly interesting and well shot, even if they're not particularly memorable.

Much like Cartier's fight, this short film finishes in the blink of an eye, but not without showing a preamble of Kubrick's directorial eye. And much like Cartier, he would have another film coming along, and another one after that. Always "fighting and training".

Grade:



FLYING PADRE
(1951, Kubrick)
Freebie



"The wise and friendly counsel of the priest is always available to his flock."

Flying Padre is Stanley Kubrick's second short documentary film. This one follows two days in the life of Reverend Fred Stadtmueller, who services a handful of churches across rural New Mexico with the help of his small plane. During the course of these days, we see him officiate a funeral service, helping quarreling kids make amends, and flying a sick child to a nearby hospital.

Like Day of the Fight before it, there's not much to say about this short. Clocking in at less than 10 minutes, even shorter than his first one, it is more of an interesting curiosity, but a well directed one. But released in the same year than the previous one, it shows that work intensity I mentioned in the previous review: there's always another film coming along, and another one after that.

Grade: