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Random Movie Thoughts Thread

Totenkindly

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Okay, I *finally* watched Hard Candy (2005) since it came up in convo earlier in the week, and it was free on Amazon Prime. Just.. whoa.

I had seen Elliot Page in Juno (2007) but not here. He was really good in this film -- projecting an aura of callousness while at the same time somehow remaining likable. I actually was laughing out loud through much of the film simply due to the outrageousness of the plotting and dialogue, while at the same time feeling kinda cringey about everything that was happening. Like, every time you think the film might make you more uncomfortable, it ratchets the plot and dialogue up another notch.

I heard there is a twist. I'm not sure what it is, unless it's the part about what does and doesn't happen (in the middle of the film). the ending itself wasn't shocking to me, it was exactly how I thought it would play out. But damn.

Again, Page's callous responses coupled with Wilson's ridiculous strategies to winning reprieves was what was darkly funny but also what was so cringey about it. The direction is interesting at times. I think it's a bit better than the sum of its parts, due to the craziness of the plotting and the acting of the two leads.

Sandra Oh has a cameo, go figure.
 

Totenkindly

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Watched Pig last night. Loved it. Amazing that it's a first-time director/writer film, it's beautifully crafted and never quite goes the direction one might expect esp with Nicholas Cage. Cage is pretty amazing here dramatically, but Alex Wolff (who I feel dumb about not recognizing until afterwards) keeps pace with him with a very different character, and even the minor roles were well-acted. It doesn't play like a first-time effort at all, is well-paced for the story being told, and resonates deeply. It never treats the audience as dumb and often will dole out bits of information that your brain slowly is putting together to understand the back stories for the characters. Even the closing credit cover song might be better than the original.

The pig is also an excellent actor and personable in front of the camera.
 

Totenkindly

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Sharing great American cinema with my son -- watched THe Bourne Supremacy (ha ha) yesterday with him, he hadn't seen it. It feels like a one-off, along with removing a main character from the story early on it also is disconnected from the first film plot / feels like a side quest of sorts, although it does bring Jason back into play and sets him up for the third film. I still am torn between the filming/editing on jiggly hand-held, it's near unwatchable for me but just skirts that line of barely being able to understand what's going on in the action sequences. Obviously it's purposeful and not just "bad editing," which redeems it a bit -- it was done for a purpose, mainly to propel the film kinetically and feel almost out of control -- but there's a line between "heart-pumping action" and visual intelligibility. This film is almost literally all plot, things just happen and happen and happen, people keep bantering without pause, and there's very little room to breathe so that it is noticeable when the camera lingers for 5-6 seconds on someone after a shocking event occurs. Out of the first three, it's perhaps the least (probably Ultimatum is the best since it offers all the payoffs and has a few shocking twists).

Tony Gilroy was a scripter on the first four Bourne films. I think where the first and fourth film shine the most is in terms of relational chemistry. Bourne's relationship with Marie (along with determining what happened to him) is key in the first film and provides a core. Likewise, the relationship between Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner's characters in the fourth film is my favorite aspect of the film. They are the two films that provide an endurable emotional core, versus just being pure plot.
 

Totenkindly

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Also rewatched Fincher's Gone Girl last night again, which was scripted by Gillian Flynn (doing her own adaptation of her book).

I think on second viewing:
  • I understand why Carrie Coon was critical of her performance here. She's not bad, but she seems a bit green and overreacting / not comfortable in spots. You can see a noticeable difference in her ease in front of the camera and taking more time with lines in "The Leftovers" and other films she's been in later.
  • I think I originally did not connect with the characters well -- they felt superficial and unrelatable -- and now on second viewing I realize this might have been part of the plan. They get together originally because they both are attracted to each other's "costume" (for example, Amy tries to be the "cool girl" to be loved by Nick), but then the costumes fall apart in the name of reality and this is when their relationship tumbles and then the events of the story occurring. The ending of the story is a return to the costumes, but this time the agreement is explicit and they both understand it as a freedom (to present themselves as they want) but also a prison... at least it is for one of them. It's a rather sadistic resolution.
  • I think Neil Patrick Harris was miscast. He's done too many sarcastic / amusing things to have some of his line reads come off seriously, especially for a character with such excesses. On the other hand, Missy Pyle and Tyler Perry were well cast, for character types, and Kim Dickens is refreshing.
  • Flynn says she didn't base this on the Laci Peterson case, but it's clear she was acquainted with the case and borrowed some notable plot points. I agree the essence of the characters is different.
  • Not sure how I feel about, I don't think it's Fincher's top level of work -- other films have more of his stamp on them.

Speaking of that, I rewatched Se7en over the weekend after years of not seeing it. I don't care much for Kevin Spacy per se, and I have always found Pitt's detective to be annoying and almost one-note, but I get the gist that Mills has an effect on Somerset who is quitting because he feels jaded by all the awfulness of the world, and despite how the story ends up and Mills' particular shortcomings, the end of the film suggests Somerset is deciding to reengage rather than withdrawing from a nihilistic world. But otherwise the film is like a huge, "Yeah, I actually DO know how to make a film," by Fincher, after getting stuck with the Alien3 cleanup in aisle five... he basically throws down the gauntlet here by showing exactly what he can do. Shore's score might not have much recognizable theme to it (to hum along with), but it's brooding in all the right ways and builds the film finale uncomfortable to something very unsettling. No one will ever forget the first time they saw the Sloth sequence. Also, I think Christopher Nolan had seen this and pulled elements off into the middle of "Insomnia" which has something very similar between its detective and culprit back at the apartment. If any film completely reflects Fincher's abilities and attitudes in film making, it's this.... although I still need to complete watching Zodiac.
 

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Totenkindly

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Been pretty surprised to see all the various kudos for West Side Story, esp with all the other older musicals falling flat or being average. Any reviews of the film (directed by Spielberg, weirdly) have been pretty stellar compared to expectation.



 

Totenkindly

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Free Guy starts out kind of disappointing and I was not thrilled about imagining another 80-90 minutes of sitting through it -- and then a funny thing happened: As Guy deepens and matures, the film does as well, until by the end it actually becomes somewhat emotionally satisfying and a pretty enjoyable experience.

It's kind of helped with the music of Christophe Beck -- who I didn't realize scored the film until midpoint when I thought I was hearing some subtle musical cues reminding me of another composition that takes central shape by the film's end. Also it's helped by a charming (and even sweet) performance by Reynolds and also by Comer.

The other joy of the film is the number of unexpected hilarious cameos not just by well-known actors but eventually also by certain franchise properties. it's all done in the right amounts, not overdone, so that the Free Guy story remains central -- and the major obstacles are even overcome in ways that align with Guy's revealed character along the way. Long story short (and it's hard to believe), but Free Guy ends up leveling up past films like Ready Player One in terms of internal consistency of concept and appropriate use of known properties. Who would have thought?
 

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Free Guy starts out kind of disappointing and I was not thrilled about imagining another 80-90 minutes of sitting through it -- and then a funny thing happened: As Guy deepens and matures, the film does as well, until by the end it actually becomes somewhat emotionally satisfying and a pretty enjoyable experience.

It's kind of helped with the music of Christophe Beck -- who I didn't realize scored the film until midpoint when I thought I was hearing some subtle musical cues reminding me of another composition that takes central shape by the film's end. Also it's helped by a charming (and even sweet) performance by Reynolds and also by Comer.

The other joy of the film is the number of unexpected hilarious cameos not just by well-known actors but eventually also by certain franchise properties. it's all done in the right amounts, not overdone, so that the Free Guy story remains central -- and the major obstacles are even overcome in ways that align with Guy's revealed character along the way. Long story short (and it's hard to believe), but Free Guy ends up leveling up past films like Ready Player One in terms of internal consistency of concept and appropriate use of known properties. Who would have thought?
I agree, Free Guy start off as a movie that looked like it was ripping off Ready Player One, but the story starts to digress and when Ryan Reynolds start doing his thing, the movie just blossomed into the perfect game movie.
 

Totenkindly

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Watched Blade again, this time on 4K. Been some years. The 4K is decent enough for an old film, nothing stellar (not like watching Interstellar, for example).

There was talk that New Line originally wanted this film to be a spoof until Goyer convinced them otherwise. Still, it's hard to enjoy Blade fully without viewing it in some ways as camp and a cult-following film. It's more fun to laugh at a lot of the scenes than take them too seriously, the drama elements underpin the script but never fully land in a nuanced way. It's more about the action and/or watching the leads chew up the scenery. Some of the characters (allowed to live for longer than expected) seem to be present just for humor effect. It's a difficult film to take too seriously.

However, there's two important things about it -- it seems to be a precursor to The Matrix in the style of presentation (although I cannot say the Matrix is derived from it because it released only about 7 months ahead of The Matrix), and is also a precursor to the MCU as one of the few "comic book films" at the time that actually had some teeth, literally and figuratively. Before this, Marvel had very little good on the table and only DC had some periodic successes (namely in Superman and Batman franchises, although not fitting with modern sensibilities). Maybe some of it is camp, but you can see the style was eventually perfected in about 10-15 years to become the structural style that is now the MCU -- basically, they kept the joking and posing while deepening the writing and drama and directing, you can see all the elements here. There's even what amounts to a postlude tag (it would have been moved to a post-credits scene nowadays).

Now I want to rewatch True Detective Season 3 again, for more Stephen Dorff.
 

Totenkindly

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I haven't heard of the film (I guess it's on Netflix?) but it's not just Ebert site -- it has a 41% on RT, a 5.2 average, Metacritic only gave it 47/100, and even IMDB (viewers) only gave it a 6.2.

I do like Mary Elizabeth Winstead though.

---

Watched My Spy yesterday. Kind of eh for 15 minutes (Ken Jeong is wasted IMO, they force him to adhere to a kind of lame script in his few scenes) but it does get better as it goes. Still kind of light-hearted fare, but they start building up repeated jokes, and Kristen Schaal is probably MVP.
 

Tomb1

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I haven't heard of the film (I guess it's on Netflix?) but it's not just Ebert site -- it has a 41% on RT, a 5.2 average, Metacritic only gave it 47/100, and even IMDB (viewers) only gave it a 6.2.

I do like Mary Elizabeth Winstead though.

Netflix...I only had seen her before in Death Proof.
 

Totenkindly

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Saw Spiderman: No Way Home today. I don't think we have a Spiderman thread, so I'll just post here. I will keep the visible stuff spoiler free. Spoilers are heavy spoilers, so don't read those if you don't want to know.

My simple summary: The film starts pretty weak IMO and there's a lot of stuff that is supposed to be amusing but doesn't land very well... I'm not sure why, maybe it's timing or the absurdity of it or just not being as funny as it imagined itself.

However, the film shifts up a notch when Spidey and Strange get together, and after that it keeps getting better and better, until by the end it is actually very moving and has lots of feels. I ended up crying a few times in this film by the end. It also officially feels like it closed off Spidey's "high school / teenager" years and positioned him for a future as a young adult. I have no idea where it might go from here, although there was a hint in one of the post-credit scenes about what might come next.

I also feel that by the end the film heavily reinforces who Spiderman is -- the consistent undercurrent of his idealism, his humor, his youth/naivety, and his courage and willingness to sacrifice. We all know his infamous buzz phrase that motivates his life, and it dominates here as well. He might make mistakes, but he also has one of the purest hearts among all the MCU and he will never stop fighting for the people he loves and/or also will offer second chances to those that might not deserve it. Despite some of its flaws, the heart of the film is true to Spiderman.

All the major MCU characters showing up in this film / after-credits:


Some of the really moving parts:



Some confusing parts:
 
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Pikaqiu

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Saw Spiderman: No Way Home today. I don't think we have a Spiderman thread, so I'll just post here. I will keep the visible stuff spoiler free. Spoilers are heavy spoilers, so don't read those if you don't want to know.

My simple summary: The film starts pretty weak IMO and there's a lot of stuff that is supposed to be amusing but doesn't land very well... I'm not sure why, maybe it's timing or the absurdity of it or just not being as funny as it imagined itself.

However, the film shifts up a notch when Spidey and Strange get together, and after that it keeps getting better and better, until by the end it is actually very moving and has lots of feels. I ended up crying a few times in this film by the end. It also officially feels like it closed off Spidey's "high school / teenager" years and positioned him for a future as a young adult. I have no idea where it might go from here, although there was a hint in one of the post-credit scenes about what might come next.

I also feel that by the end the film heavily reinforces who Spiderman is -- the consistent undercurrent of his idealism, his humor, his youth/naivety, and his courage and willingness to sacrifice. We all know his infamous buzz phrase that motivates his life, and it dominates here as well. He might make mistakes, but he also has one of the purest hearts among all the MCU and he will never stop fighting for the people he loves and/or also will offer second chances to those that might not deserve it. Despite some of its flaws, the heart of the film is true to Spiderman.

All the major MCU characters showing up in this film / after-credits:


Some of the really moving parts:



Some confusing parts:
I agree that it started off a bit slow, and I also didn't know where the film is heading towards. But it was well covered by the other parts of the movie.

It was amazing to see how he shifted from a kid wanting to be more (Homecoming) to a kid wanting to enjoy life (Far From Home), to finally, a kids tat is turning to an adult. Trying his best to protect his loved ones and has the maturity to let go of his identity for the people he loves.

I was an amazing ride with Tom Holland, hope we can see how would he fit in in the bigger universe going forward.
 

Totenkindly

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Rewatched American Beauty again, after a long lull. I know it's fallen out of favor quite a bit since it originally won Best Picture, although some of the criticism again seems based on viewer expectation and extraneous issues like the fall of Kevin Spacey for behavior that aligns too much with his screen character. I have grown also to resonate more with Mendes' next film "Road to Perdition," which I think is just gorgeous filmmaking.

AB had a reputation for being edgy, and I think some of the fallen favor has to do with it no longer feeling edgy and/or being edge as a way to garner attention. The things that appealed to me American Beauty though were more about character and acting, not necessarily about "messaging," so those things haven't changed much. I just found the cast to be spot on with emotional portrayal and continuity, some of them with more difficult lines to walk between real and caricature. (Thinking primarily of Annette Benning here, who I adore.) The atmosphere and cinematography and music is well locked in too. Maybe other films are "better" in terms of showing the empty heart of Western commercialism and middle class disillusionment, but that doesn't mean this film doesn't.

But getting back to my focus -- I always viewed this film in terms of characters, not necessarily themes, or at least the psychological themes. This film actually had one of the first characters I connected with on a character level (Ricky Fitts), so it was special in that regard. But it has been interesting in the intervening years. While Lester Burnham was originally the least interesting character to me, some of the personal growth I've experienced since the film aired gave me another lens to view things by.

When people awaken from a numb detachment from living and just doing what everyone else wants / not really having personal agency, it's not uncommon to push back a lot harder than needed, to exhilarate over the new found freedom, and even be irresponsible / self-absorbed on some levels. You are basically moving from a life where your inner voice was either squashed or you squished it yourself for some reason, to a life where suddenly you are (1) finally hearing your voice and (2) obeying it / following where it leads. Sometimes this can lead to behaving in ways that seem more childish, if you never pursued this route in childhood in order to develop your own voice and autonomy. It's something I learned later in life, you cannot skip this process -- you either do it young when you have no responsibilities or you have to balance it with your responsibilities as an adult in order to mature. Sometimes this process can be unsetting, dependent on the behaviors one indulges in.

There are a lot of characters in this film who have grown numb to life and/or unable to hear their inner voice accurately. Lester is just the most obvious one, who also acts out the most. Carolyn deals with existential dread by obsessing over her work and her house/property, controlling every detail in order to "project the appearance of success" -- but you can tell she's miserable as well and not the woman she once was. Jane is unhappy with her home life and being invisible, to the degree of saving up for a boob job in hopes it makes her feel better about herself. (Note how her ambitions changes once she feels "seen" by Ricky, the perpetual observer.) Ricky is interesting in that on some levels he is the least pretentious and the most doing his own thing -- however, in order to fend off external pressures, he portrays himself a certain way (the outside role protects him from external interference) and he also placates his dad in order to keep him off his back, saying what he knows he wants to hear, until finally Ricky destabilizes his life by honestly speaking his mind; he finally is open about his line of work and his feelings about the people around him. Ricky's mom is like an empty vessel and has no inner voice, somehow it's all been purged from her and/or she's become SO detached she doesn't really exist anymore. Angela just tries to make herself feel important by pretending to be what she thinks will get her the attention she craves, but she's just a scared child who wants someone to care for her. (She pretends to be a sexually mature woman but she's still a girl.) Colonel Fitts is terrified to accept his own impulses and has everything locked down "through discipline" to the degree that he can't even bear for others to know about the moments he hasn't.

Some of these characters become better at hearing themselves, some do not. They are all being tested in some way. It's really interesting that so many of their strategies come by clinging to sexuality of some kind. (Angela, Jane, Lester, Carolyn, Col Fitts, etc.) Does it work? No, not really -- it just tends to destabilize things further. Even before he starts obsessing over Angela, Lester whacks off daily in the shower as the only relief he gets from his tediously awful existence. Empowerment through sex actually isn't the solution.

While some of Lester's behavior is repulsive, and it would be easy to revile him for even entertaining some things he does as the film goes on, note that he was unable to be an adult until he was rebelling against expectations and hearing his own voice again. He is only able to realize what Angela actually needs (and starts providing that) after he's learned to "hear" again and feel like an active participant in his own life; when you are needy and passive, you are still a child and cannot assume an adult role. It's like he is waking up from a drug-induced trance when he realizes his view of Angela doesn't gel with the reality. This is the realization he has at the end of the film that leaves him with some kind of euphoria and peace -- that once you come to terms with yourself and your life is a product of your own choices, then the desperation of drowning fades and you are able to provide to others from an adult's capacity rather than just feeding your own impulses. You can afford to view them as they are and meet them there; you have capacity to give instead of take.
 

Totenkindly

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Rewatched all four Hunger Games films after a period of not thinking about them. My opinions haven't changed much. The Hunger Games is sufficient but lacking in how action is filmed + doesn't really delve into the "mutts" concept as much as it should have to explain later themes of the series. Catching Fire is the most coherent of the four, in terms of putting together and telling a story, and while being a rehash in some ways of the first film, manages plot-wise to justify why they're going back into the arena. Mockingjay 1 is actually pretty decent for a first part-er, in terms of building up the character drama and also showing how a propaganda war is handled. Mockingjay 2 captures the right plot beats and even expands the story in good ways (the lizard mutts that only got a page or two in the book also becomes a horrifying set piece to rival any action-horror flick out there, it's paced and handled beautifully). It helped that Collins helped convert her own novels.

I think my biggest disappointment of the series is how it seemed to lose its cajones at the end. In the book, Katniss is visibly scarred from the final explosion, where she literally became "the girl on fire," and the denouement explores how she is a "mutt" of all her experiences both psychologically and physically, left scarred by the ordeal. (The later films actually try to refer to "mutts" more and how they are twisted amalgams created by the Capitol to serve its own ends.) This plays into a bittersweet ending where she finds some level of peace while having suffered terrible scars on various levels. But the film chickens out -- we see Katniss' entire body on fire, except for her face which remains completely untouched. The film then hides her scarred body under layers of clothing and her face remains beautiful. The film also ends on a glowy note that was bittersweet in the book because the lingering damage done to her was more blatant while it feels too positive in the film.

My other issue is mostly casting Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Lawrence is a terrific actress, and I know why they cast her; but she doesn't quite align with the Katniss of the books, Lawrence is far more emotional while book Katniss is very stoic and closed off (some kind of e6 or e1, perhaps). This is helpful in conveying emotion in the film, but the book Katniss was an enigma and colder, while Lawrence seems to be agonizing visibly or downright bawling every 15 minutes. I dunno. I can deal when I forget about book Katniss, it's just a flavor of the character. My dream cast would have been Hailee Steinfeld, to be honest -- her character in the True Grit remake (two years before Hunger Games rolled out) showed that she could ably portray a more book-centered Katniss, and otherwise she was physically spot on. Katniss is 16 in Book #1, and Steinfeld would have been 16 when Hunger Games released.

It's funny how Hunger Games triggered a glut of YA books and YA films, and yet the best series of them all still remains Hunger Games despite its flaws. They are decent films and pretty fairly follow the books. The other similar films out in that time period are rather abysmal (For example, The Maze Runner film was decent enough but the next two films were pretty meh at best; the Divergent series didn't even cross the finish line; and other YA films were typically DOA.)

I think a lot of the casting was great. My favorite characters are probably Effie Trinket and Cinna, but I really love many of them.

It looks like they are making another film (for 2023 release) of the prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, with Frances Lawrence returning to direct. I haven't read the book and in fact forgot it published last year.
 

Tomb1

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Saw some movies over this Holiday season:

Man From Del Rio on Prime...old black and white Western with Anthony Quinn and Katy Jurado. It was definitely from the High Noon era. This is before Westerns went to the next level (s) with movies like the Searchers and Good, Bad and the Ugly

I found Matrix Resurrections (HBO Max) to be boring. Maybe because I was immune from all of the director's over-the-top attempts at playing on nostalgia. I could not wait for the movie to finish.

Watched Battle Royale on Youtube. I could not get over the dubbing, though. I thought a lot of the dubbing wasn't congruent with the acting....would have preferred just to use sub-titles for translation ....Tarrantino hails it as such a great movie, but I think his movies (reservoir dogs, from dusk till dawn, kill bill 1 and 2, pulp fiction, even hell ride) are better.

I subjected my girl to Larry Clark's Bully. She was surprised when I told her it was based on a true story. Clark is uncompromising in the realism he brings to the murder of bobby kent. Murder is messy business especially planned, executed and covered up by a bunch of lost, empty, stoned out teenagers.

The American with George Clooney is the most intelligently crafted movie of the ones I listed. It's got the subtlety thing down perfect. But these kinds of movies always lack realism to me. Murder is a messy business even amongst professional assassins.

The Wolverine (Netflix) was very entertaining as was Logan but I give the edge to Logan. I'm still waiting for the sequel to Logan, though. They'd better come out with one because they obviously set it up so that there would be a further story to tell, and that girl who played Lara did such a fierce job in that role.
 
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Totenkindly

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Watched Don't Look Up today. Kind of eh. It can't decide what kind of film it wants to be, it's like McKay actually wanted to preach about vaccinations or global warming or something, but tried to half-heartedly do satire without really being that funny. I did laugh at some individual sequences, but there are moment where he seems to be going for broad laughs, and then others where the humor (from a few talented cast) is actually subtle or nuanced. DiCaprio seems miscast for the parts that were supposed to be humorous, although he nails his serious moments fine enough. It's hard to satirize the commonplace extremes of today's society and it's not clear who he was trying to speak to. At times I could imagine Will Farrell as the doctor, and that would have brought big accentuated energy (more of a loud satire) to the role, if that was where the film was meant to go. There's one cameo by a famous actor that you don't really recognize him but as soon as he talks, it's like "OH." I'd say that Chalamet, Lawrence, Streep, Lynskey, and Blanchett were pretty good -- but they were in a more nuanced picture. The tone was just really all over the place. Grande wasn't funny in the least despite McKay glowing all over her. And the film was way too long as released.

I tried watching Tic Tic Boom and Being the Ricardos. I will have to struggle through them later. They are not bad films (and the leads in both films are great), I just was getting tired of watching the actual movies themselves. For Being the Ricardos, at least, what it made me do was want to go back and watch "I Love Lucy" since I only really watched it as a kid and that was many years ago... so maybe I'd view things in an adult lens now.

Watched Battle Royale on Youtube. I could not get over the dubbing, though. I thought a lot of the dubbing wasn't congruent with the acting....would have preferred just to use sub-titles for translation ....Tarrantino hails it as such a great movie, but I think his movies (reservoir dogs, from dusk till dawn, kill bill 1 and 2, pulp fiction, even hell ride) are better.

I have seen about half of it, some months ago, and I tend to agree with the comments about subtitles and also how Tarantino is good at taking certain film styles and improving them / doing them better. I finally watched Lady Snowblood a few months back, and it's incredible how much of that film is mirrored in Kill Bill -- and it is a really decent film for that time period, but Tarantino ratchets everything up with a nice coat of polish as well.

The Wolverine (Netflix) was very entertaining as was Logan but I give the edge to Logan. I'm still waiting for the sequel to Logan, though. They'd better come out with one because they obviously set it up so that there would be a further story to tell, and that girl who played Lara did such a fierce job in that role.
They would have to set it further ahead in the timeline, since Dafne Keen has gotten much older. She's 16 now, and her big work at the moment is playing lead in "His Dark Materials" (aka The Golden Compass stuff) on HBO. But she's great, I'd love to see her reprise if they have all the kids as teenagers.
 
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