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Suicide Squad (2016)
I wonder when the kids are going to tire of the same formula
I am 56. I love movies and tried to make a few. So I like to think of myself as a student of film.
SS, for all it's promise of offering the opposite of the comic- made-movie still follows the same formula that these films have all devolved to. I know I am jaded as far as action films go and that I have seen so many over the years that it is hard for me to see something as new or at least a fresh take on a trope. If I has seen this when I was 15 I would have liked it more, but even then I would have noticed the formula.
But the formula sells, so I will end this gripe here. I'll be back
An enigma wrapped in an allegory, glazed with fingerprint powder and served well done.
This is a well crafted short that wiggles around several scifi and philosophical and metaphysical tomes in a clever and interesting way. It slowly accelerates until your scratching your noggin saying, "If that's him, who is he?
It could have easily turned out to be a trite treatment of the above tomes, but the whole things works well for the whole fifteen minutes.
Among all the other questions it raises, how many mice were there?
You can stop reading here, I am still typing so I can make the minimum of 10 lines. I don't want to say anymore about "Mouse X" because I don't want to give anything away.....
The Act of Killing (2012)
Nothing is stranger than the truth
the filmmakers of "The Act of Killing" are some of the bravest people I can think of. The fact that they were capturing the confessions of mass murderers in the place where those murders are still celebrated to this day is mindboggleing. I knew they survived to finish the film, but I was in fear for them all the same as I waited for one the elder killers to suddenly realize where all the work might go and decide that burying the film and it's crew might be a better idea. And the ex-hit squad guys would have never been bothered about it again.
The film is experimental as well as "experiencial". What better way to learn about a hit squad than to find some of its members and get them to act out some of their murders? One thing i am glad to relate, there are no pictures of the dead. Scenes with blood and violence are all seen as be part of the film making process, we are shown none of it is real, however real the reactions of the amateur actors are. Nevertheless, a lot of the re-enactments very disturbing in themselves and very disturbing for the main actor, who did the real killing. The other hit men still feel justified. One seemed to long for the old days.
The detractors of the film see it as a glorification or as therapy of some sort for the killers.
I don't see that at all. Instead of pointing fingers at these men and saying, "he did this and he did that", the film makers point a camera at the killers and ask, "How did you do it?" and invite them to write the a movie about it. Some of the killers script ideas are as incomprehensible and bizarre and absolutely haunting as anything you can ever hope to see in a film.
But we also see them in their own lives, see who they are at the time the film was made. Are they monsters? Are they single minded brutes? No, they are men, like other men. And it doesn't take much of a push for man to kill a man. A few labels, a lot of shouting and the unification that hatred creates, and ordinary men start doing hideous things.
Not very scientific
If you want to see something that has science in it pick another show. "Helix" is teen identity angst set in the trappings of science fiction, slack on the science.
Occasionally quite bloody and full of "sciencey" looking props, it fails to deliver anything plausible and the scientist/epidemiologist characters rarely follow anti-contagion procedures. And what is supposed to be a high tech bio lab facility often looks quite low tech.
Outside the facility looks like the 22nd century but inside, the non- computer generated part, is very low tech and not congruent with the theme of the show.
As long as you don't expect to see something on the order of the original "Andromeda Strain" you might enjoy this but I sure didn't.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Some say its awful, but at least its different
There are so many awful films made theses days. A trend that annoys me often is the rapid fire barrage editing. I realize that larger budget English language films are edited more for a global audience than they used to be, and everybody needs to make a buck, but many feature films are, for me, suffering for it. The story gets lost in editing for the non-English speaker. A good example of this was the third "Bourne" film.
So among my reasons for enjoying "Only God forgives" was the time taken to set up the frame and show us pictures with people in them, and give us a few seconds to realize what we are looking at, and perhaps even ponder what those characters are like.
I also enjoyed the tableau nature of many of the scenes. Appropriate to the title, often there were three characters arranged and each was clearly an individual. Again, we have time to look at these people and make judgments about them.
I also was made to feel a sense of dread for the doomed characters. almost all of them were terribly flawed, bad and likely to murder. So instead of suspense followed by a shock, I felt dread of the inevitable bad end some of the characters got, but also a sense of justice for each of them paying a price for their crimes, both legal and moral.
The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez is one of the characters. Or several as it illuminates Thailand as vibrant and unique nation which can be welcoming or devouring. Martinez score is fascinating and essential to the film. It lives inside it as well as outside, a very palpable narrator. I think "Only God forgives" is worth watching just for the score.
As an American who has been here and there in other countries the film stands out as making the "foreigners" stand out as such. Alien in presence, comprehension and motivation to the natives. I think a lot of people may feel "Chang" is an evil character. I saw him as the anti- hero of the film and in a way, symbolizing Thailand itself. A nation and culture that has refused colonization and suffered for it, while maintaining it's Buddhist identity, while being a melting pot for so many cultures. "Chang" contains so much of what is corrupt through his witnessing of it, and does what he can to stop it when he can.
The film was made for less than 5 million dollars. The last "Die Hard" stinker cost more than 90 million to make. I think "Only God forgives" is one the most interesting film of the past few years made.
PS: So many keep mentioning Refn's "Drive" and how OGF is not like "Drive". Refn is a creative guy. Why should one of his films be "like" another? I hope he says "Thanks, I was not intending to repeat what I did in "Drive" since this is a DIFFERENT film.", every time he hears that complaint from yet another misinformed moviefan who thinks a directors films should each be a Big Mac and look and taste the same.
Q.,"Hey Frank, how did you like "the Shining?"",
A.,"Oh I hated it, it wasn't anything like "Lolita"!".
20 Years After (2008)
Lets leave this wasteland for another wasteland
Most of the acting was interesting and done well. The story was a real drag that is a little difficult to pin down.
I would say it's mostly about some sort of romantic idea of the radio being a way people communicate. There's a pregnant woman whose main reason for leaving one place to go to another to give birth is to get away from her mother, because I didn't see any advantage for her ending up in an abandoned city.
The sci-fi premise just doesn't work. Whatever happened 20 years ago is not made clear in relation to why no children have been born. So the impetus of Sci-fi is cut off at the knees and is never even partially explained as to what happened beyond some sort of limited nuclear war.
I could live with that sort sort of premise, that nobody know what happened, but the world in the film just didn't look that bad, even at the end when they got to the city.
I spose it was meant to be ironic that the woman who wanted not to have her baby in a cave or in a basement ended up giving birth in an underground parking garage, but it came off more to me that that was all the set the production could afford at that point.
The movie does establish a sense of mood...but it's kinda sleepy coming down from smoking a dooby mood.
Mysterious Island (2005)
this is drek
This is drek. Kyle McClanahan, Patrick Stewart in the Jules Verne story? How could it go wrong? Hallmark is not what it was. They used to do, at worst, a Cliff Notes version of stories that leaned toward the sappy, So I thought their version of "MI" would at least be fun here and there...
The rewrite that began as one story got rewritten and raked over.
I watched about 45 minutes of a 2 part movie?...and it was obvious that when they shot it the story was in flux. Vernes' story is completely hollowed out and subverted into the most shameful of cash-cows. I think that if the 3 well known stars in this new what a mess it would turn into they would not have been in it. It tries to make hay from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" popularity and add some bad pirates in worse costumes searching for treasure-where else but on the Mysterious Island. I just couldn't stand more than I saw when the "pirates of the pop-scene" came aboard so malevolently. Any resemblance to Vernes work is minimal and the writers of this junk should be marooned on an island somewhere! Fay-Wah! (Mandarin for "Nonsense!" I think)
Philosophy of a Knife (2008)
See something else on Unit 731
This epic is 4 hours long. Much of that 4 hours is the exterior of a building which may or may not be the one in question.
In a prologue the director and I think one of the producers tell us, among other things, that they "did not research" a lot of the facts.
But they say their work is based on facts and that the movie is supposed to be about death and war....
There is a fair amount of interesting stuff in the movie, enough for maybe 90 minutes. But not 4 hours. I think they wanted to give the viewer some sense of ennui by showing the building the falling snow from this angle, from that angle, from another angle...all with no narration over and over. It seemed like about 2 minutes of story and 5 minutes of exterior of building in the falling snow for 4 hours.
I may be exaggerating, but not much. As for the story....
Those who know about Unit 731 may be offended by this film as an effort to cash in on a grisly reputation. Others may be offended by it's portrayal of one American and several Russians as the victims of Unit 731. I am pretty sure the majority of victims were a very diverse group consisting of P.O.W.s from all who fought against Japan, Chinese locals and even Japanese criminals. Pregnant women as well as children were also prey to the heinous Japanese "doctors" of Unit 731.
Regardless, the whole thing to me comes off as lame bondage/torture-porn. That you MIGHT get some idea of a story out of if you take notes when they are actually speaking. Even if you are looking for Bondage/toture-porn keep the remote handy, you have a lot of the building in the falling snow from this angle, from that angle, from another angle...all with no narration over and over to fast forward through.
I was constantly surprised and kept saying "NO!"
This is one of the few new millennium films to really deliver that old feeling of "Don't go in there!"
I also felt sorry for the victim as opposed to wish they would get killed in whatever despicable, PREDICTABLE way and get it over with.
You watch a scary movie and you know something bad is s'posed to happen. But getting there is all the fun, or, as in most of the American efforts, getting there involves teenage kids having sex and dying.
"Calvaire" is different and familiar at the same time. It is what "Saw" wanted to be.
If you enjoy being horrified it's for you.
It's in the Water (1997)
Just too stereotypical to be funny
There are a lot of very serious works about homosexuality that bravely comment on the human condition. I can't think of many that are from the gay perspective that try to be funny. Which is probably a bad thing.
This movie tries to be funny. It wants to be funny. It does have it's moments. But mostly it's just trying.
I am from the South and perhaps that makes it a lot harder for me to like this movie. Gay life in the South can produce some outlandish characters that were hinted at in the movie but were colorless and forced. The real life characters I grew up with were/are much funnier and smarter.
But hey, I give Kelli Herd and her group 3 stars for trying. I think they were brave and hope they didn't lose too much money on it. She just needs to recruit less of her actors from dinner theater next time.
I think we need more movies that from a gay perspective that are funny. Hopefully funnier than this one, but still as "nice".
I think my favorite character was the knitter in the mens "hetero is good" group.