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Coming the Week of January 18th (17 Jan 2020)
First Impressions of Return to Dark Tower.
Reviews of Clank!, On the Underground, Cover Your Kingdom, and Arkham Horror LCG: Circle Undone Core Box.
It Came from the Tabletop's take on Sanctum.
Part 3 of The Others.
And more TBA
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Please start new threads in the appropriate category for mini-session reports, discussions of specific games or other discussion starting posts.
What MOVIE(s) have you been....seeing? watching?
I wasn't in the mood for most Christmas movies so this year we watched Jingle All the Way. It's one of those movies, like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where almost every decision that was made during its creation was the wrong one, so you end up with a slipshod, wrong-headed, chaotic mess that I find fascinating (unlike something like Van Helsing, which is excruciating). The lone bright spot is Phil Hartman who knows he's in a piece of shit and has his smarmy persona dialed all the way up to 11.
Joker. Where do you even start with it? How about the cut from the very Frank Miller-esque wall of TVs babbling about the recent events and “Gotham City is on fire” cutting to a tracking shot of a police car driving Joker through an apocalyptic riot to the sounds of Cream’s “White Room”. The immediate impact is that it’s visceral and even electrifying. But then you take a step back and think “wait a minute, this is only working because it is a floor-to-ceiling Scorsese riff” right down to the Clapton riff. It’s one of the most derivative films I’ve ever seen, which is a shame because the core concept of a “realistic” Joker origin with a gritty, 1970s “film school generation” vibe is a great idea.
But everything good in this film is good because it was good before somewhere else. The whole thing plays like a mash-up song. But instead of the Beatles and Dangermouse, it’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
The empty politics the film throws out like a 15 year railing at everything, hitting about at the level of Slipknot’s “people=shit” mentality, have no substance. It plays fast and loose with both conservative and liberal ideology in a dangerously scattershot way- dangerously close to “good people on both sides” except there are no good people. One minute it seems to be attacking austerity. The next minute it is suggesting that anti-capitalism is a symptom of mental illness. Or that capitalism causes mental illness. It’s a mess, and at the end it turns out the film doesn’t have anything to say other than “shit is fucked up, dude”. No amount of somber cello music can make whatever it is this film Has To Say About America matter.
It is all empty provocation- for example, using a fucking Gary Glitter song in there…it isn’t transgressive, daring, or significant…it’s dick-waggling to get a reaction. I guess you might expect it from guy who’s first film was a documentary about GG Allin.
Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is hard to gauge, to be honest. It seems like good acting, but man, the strain is visible. It is so ACTING. His Joker laugh and his manic dancing are incredible though.
Photography was great, editing was great…it’s a well-built film and it was absolutely watchable. But it is in a lot of ways this generation’s Natural Born Killers. A bunch of puffed-up, self-aggrandizing and hollow bullshit.
Midsommar is certainly an interesting horror film. It’s almost three hours long and it takes place almost completely outdoors in full sunlight due to the Scandanavian location. Like Hereditary, it is not so much interested in surprising you with what happens (look, the college kids going to the weird village are going to die in weird folk rituals, you know this), but with using the horror story to tell a different kind of internal narrative. This one is really about a slow motion breakup, death, and losing a sense of belonging before finding where you need to be. That’s all very interesting, and makes for a compelling theme. Like Hereditary, this is a haunting and uniquely upsetting film with some absolutely shocking imagery – and implications. It’s also, unexpectedly, psychedelic in a very, very neat way. The wind up to the end is a lot like Hereditary – all the cards are on the table and you are just waiting to see how it plays out, which creates a unique sense of suspense.
Ari Aster does some really neat things directorially – I especially like how he loads the film with these “soft” reveals. The camera pulls back to show something that wasn’t in frame before, and it’s like “hang on…there’s also this” – if you notice what he is revealing. There’s actually a joke about it in the film. The opening shot is of a painted mural that more or less shows you the entire story. I actually thought that was pretty brilliant, as it admits up front that everybody knows where this is all headed, so pay attention to the other stuff.
The folk horror elements were excellent- definitely on par with The Wicker Man, which is this film’s Taxi Driver/King of Comedy template. Lots of eeriness, lots of folk art, lots of strange behavior and mannerisims. The cult, despite the murders, isn’t “evil”, really…which is kind of an interesting take. They are all about empathy and reciprocity, which is why Florence Pugh’s character almost subconsciously gravitates to them.
Aster is doing good stuff, I don’t think he’s quite made a truly great film yet, but the next one could be it. I am hoping he doesn’t pull a Shamalyan though – he could be just one The Happening or The Lady in the Water away from it.
My Name is Dolemite was really fun. Definitely Eddie Murphy’s best since………a long time ago. It was unexpectedly charming and upbeat and although I don’t think I necessarily gained any insight into Rudy Ray Moore or learned anything I didn’t already know, I appreciated the film’s attempt to depict him as an optimistic, enthusiastic visionary with a passion that was sometimes larger than his agency or talent. Murphy is really great – you can tell that he has a lot of respect for RRM and even when we may be too aware of it being Eddie Murphy, the reality is that there is no Eddie Murphy without Rudy Ray Moore.Having watched all of his movies, it was also fun to see the fictionalized “behind the scenes” stuff, although I had to shake my head when scenes from Dolemite 2: The Human Tornado were shown under the pretense of it being a screening of the first Dolemite.
and Dolemite is My Name: dichotomouspurity.blogspot.com/2019/11/alexandria.html
About 10 minutes into the film the main character complains that "there are Jews at my table". A bit after he's going on an homophonic tirade and a bit earlier he threw a dog down a trash chute. He's a piece of shit and the film and Nicholson do a fantastic job portraying him as such.
The problem is that other characters just...take it. He is a massive bigot to all other characters and all they do is take it a little and then overlook it. Sure, the gay neighbour punches him once, but he feels bad and they end up talking. And while the waitress is very human and very flawed in her own ways, overlooking bigoted attacks towards her and the aforementioned Jews is is beyond what the character or the film can handle.
It's one of those films where people with a modicum of common sense would just avoid the main character and hence prevent any redemption arc from happening. And if there were any redemption it would involve far more apologizing and soul-searching that shown. I mean, kicking Jews out of a restaurant. I can't help but feel much of the homophobic insults were given a pass because it's a film from 1997 and they were considered not as bad.
It sucks because the performances are really good and there are great scenes and ideas and touches all over it. The depcition of OCD behaviour is very smart and good too! In fact, it's related to the aspect I criticize because the main character uses bigotry as a tool to get rid of "annoying people" who break his routine. But I think it's either too bold or not bold enough to overcome the inherent bigotry of the character.
The reason that Carol continues to tolerate Melvin's behavior is because she recognizes his difficulties with social situations and because he's a big tipper, which is what makes her job (and tolerating him) worthwhile. It's her own way of avoiding a confrontation (simply getting him the food and environment that he wants and getting him out of the restaurant, while getting paid) and benefiting from it, in a small way. If you're judging that character on her willingness to look the other way from a bigot because it allows her to get by economically with a perpetually ill son, then I would suggest that you're not doing a very good job of placing yourself in her shoes and understanding why people make (and are often forced to make) the choices that they do.
The reason that the film was so successful was because the screenplay portrayed them all as quite genuine, flawed humans, trying to adapt to their changing circumstances and each other. In other words, they were relatable to much of the audience, even when they were outlandish/racist/homophobic/human.
I didn't make the tipping connection. I simply thought the waitress was kind to him because she could see he had difficulties with it. We did discuss how the artist, who seemed well-off, was driven to bankrupcy for medical bills which is not a thing in our country. I can totally see the motivation for the waitress to accept medical help for her son. The mother not caring at all about what the "terms of the deal" are also seemed very human to me.
No, no it's just that, well, kicking Jews out of a restaurant is way over the line. Because it's not just making hurtful comments, it's literally driving out other people. And while the artist may be a pushover, no gay person is going to take long tirades of homphobic abuse and look the other way. Of course, that might be presentism on my part, but c'mon.
Jackwraith wrote: If you're judging that character on her willingness to look the other way from a bigot because it allows her to get by economically with a perpetually ill son, then I would suggest that you're not doing a very good job of placing yourself in her shoes and understanding why people make (and are often forced to make) the choices that they do.
It just seems to me the film goes too easily over the matter. Melvin gets better, but at no point he acknoledges that hey, perhaps antisemitic attacks are way out of the line. Neither do other characters. Sure, he doesn't "mean it", it's just a convenient way to hurt people, but that's such a hair splitting thing.
I don't know, I think it's a good or even very good film. I just think it should have either gone over and made Melvin's hate more important or go softer and make it less important.
As for me, I was underwhelmed. It was pretty! Some really nice lighting effects and textures to the rocks and water! The plot just didn't work. The climax had no setup, and what I thought was the main storyline, the search for the nature spirits, didn't build into anything. The spirits were met and tamed, and then a climax from a different movie arrived. I know Disney movies have been eschewing villains for a while now (bad portents for the future of Villainous), but Frozen 2 really needed something for Elsa and Anna to push against. Their sisterly love was well confirmed in the last movie and never truly challenged this time around. I expected better given six years to follow up one of their biggest hits of the past two decades.
Yesterday, after clearing more snow, I watched Lord of War. It's okay, aside from being approximately the same movie as Blow. Any decent actor should be able to play a salesman well, but Cage always seems to bring a little extra to a part. The only surprising part of the movie was the number of hot women with brief scenes. There was a supporting character who almost but not quite brought Tom Cruise level of intensity to his part, to the point where I could almost visualize a more conventional movie showing his viewpoint of the same story.
I was blown away. McKenna Grace plays a compelling but odd little hero, and I couldn't help cheering her on. She is a nerdy young girl in a redneck trailer park, missing her late mother and hoping to meet aliens some day. (I was a bit surprised to see that Georgia looked so much like Louisiana, but the end credits showed that it was really filmed in Louisiana.) The year is 1977, and NASA is offering one troop the chance to get their voices on the golden record that will be sent out to the stars with Voyager. So this little girl manages to pull together her own misfit scout troop to compete at the jamboree. What follows is bold, weird, funny, and really touching. It isn't just a movie about girl scouts, it's a movie about the really important stuff in life, the big stuff that we can all feel.
Viola Davis and Allison Janney both turn in fine performances, but the kids are really great, and not just Ms. McKenna and her surprising resume for a 13 year-old. Troop Zero is one of those rare movies that really understands what kids are like, and dares to put it up on screen. I haven't been a kid for decades, and this movie really took me back. I laughed more than I have in months, and I even cried a bit. I can't promise this movie will deliver the same experience for everybody, but I loved it. Bonus points for having three Bowie songs on the soundtrack.
I'm not going to get all film school on you. Barnes handles MIDSOMMAR above, and I agree. Excellent use of psychotropic imagery in the film itself. The flowers are breathing in the May Queen's crown, for example. Loved it. One item I really appreciate is that it frames the pagan beliefs as personal, closely held beliefs for these people-–too often films depict them as kitschy, goofy things people do to "get one over" or whatever.
PARASITE has some amazing beats, jeez. You know these characters within seconds. This is just good writing and acting, goddamn.