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Altered States (1980)
I never would have imagined anyone could meld the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story with the American notion of masculine rugged individualism (and a genuine love story at the heart of it). These grandiose ideas all thrown together into a stunningly disturbing and moving work of art. Ken Russell is an absolute genius.
South Park: Band in China (2019)
Best in Several Years
After all the absurdity in the real world since the previous season, I was concerned how these guys would satirize something already so farcical. This here is the answer. The fact that they managed to work in Winnie the Pooh in China and still make it more absurd is miraculous. They've still got it. Here's to hoping the rest of the season is this good.
Toxic Victim Blaming
Everything was going nicely for the first two-thirds of the episode, the guys were being a bit jerky, especially Ted, and Mary was valiantly sticking up for Georgette. All of sudden, we take a sharp turn, and now everyone is blaming Georgette for guys treating her like crap. Ted doesn't ultimately learn anything (which is done with a final throw-away joke), and none of the other characters do either. Victim blaming at its finest. This has not aged well at all.
O Lucky Man! (1973)
Candide Encounters Modernity
O Lucky Man! trades in the brevity of Candide for a more in depth examination of each scenario, which I can take or leave, but mostly I admire the ambition of this project. The scope, like Candide, is massive while still being small and personal. It will definitely merit a rewatch at some point.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
He truly was a wonderful man. The most impressive thing about this documentary for me was how it humanized him. He had his doubts, his shortcomings, his frustrations, and it initially bothered me. Why hate on superheroes? Why be harsh with Francois initially over his sexuality? But he was always learning, always growing and there are pains and imperfections along the way. In the end, he'd always like you just the way you are. That kind of admiration of the beauty of human nature is hard to find, but as he taught, is not impossible. We can all be like him, and still be uniquely us.
An Unexpected Joy
I didn't really pay much attention to the social media marketing that I saw on Facebook, and I saw it because my wife was mildly interested and it had good reviews. What a stunning surprise I got. This movie is incredible. The cast is a riot as well as the spectacular screenplay they had. But the best thing for me was the upbeat energy of the whole movie, which credit has to go Olivia Wilde's direction. It was like a John Hughes movie, with 200% of the energy, and considerably less problematic. This movie will stay with me as a quintessential coming of age story for years to come.
The Twilight Zone: Replay (2019)
Back Off, Haters
Seriously, most of these negative reviews have little to do with the episode itself. They are griping about issues they have with the current political and social climate, and how "that's not what The Twilight Zone is supposed to be".
Hate to break it to you (but not really), but The Twilight Zone was many and varied, in tone, quality, political relevance, etc. One of the these elements was paranoia, obviously born out of the early Cold War for the original series. One of the problems with remaking The Twilight Zone before was just copying that same paranoia, and current paranoia changes. Jordan Peele has actually successfully updated the paranoia. We're afraid of different things these days.
The only legitimate complaint I've come across on IMDb so far is this episode being too on the nose. Sure, it has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but that's not necessarily a problem. That is ultimately a personal preference, how much subtlety, or lack thereof, bothers you. For me, it doesn't phase me too much, especially when it's about such an important topic.
There are plenty of other good aspects of this episode, primarily the character work (from the leads, obviously not the cop, he was all about the archetype, which was still important). I found them engaging and realistic. I actually cared about the outcome for them.
I could go into my speculation about the importance of how they are presented, but I'm sure others more personally invested than I could say it better, and more accurately.
This is an important episode, and I hope this show will be remembered well. I will at least.
*Also, for that one person bashing Ryan Coogler, not cool. He is a very talented director, and not just for Black Panther. Fruitvale Station and Creed are also great. He is a young director with a long, likely successful career ahead of him.
I, Daniel Blake (2016)
A Good Closing Note for Me
I have been actively working my way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die lists, and of all the movies on all the lists, this was the final one. Melancholy, absolutely, but I am happy to end the list on a quality note.
Entertaining as Fiction, Problematic as History
Problematic is an understatement, as the attitudes of the characters, chiefly Custer, were completely erroneous. In the context of the events, this romanticized character is rewritten history incarnate. That being said, if the character is treated as entirely fictional, it's a fun and enjoyable movie. Errol Flynn's dashing bravado is as watchable as always, and the production value was superb. As long as you suspend your disbelief, you'd be in for a fun ride.
A Star Is Born (2018)
Amongst the Greats
Initial advertising had me a bit worried. It appeared that this would be taking a lot of nods from the 1976 film, which I believe to be the weakest of them all. While there were some nods and some similarities, this became its own in a magnificent fashion. Bradley Cooper is the best of the male leads, and Lady Gaga is just as amazing as Janet Gaynor. They had the best chemistry of any of the other films, and it will go down in as highly regarded a way as all the others.
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Watching this conversation over dinner, in a voyeuristic fashion, makes me reflect on conversations like this I have had in the past. I don't remember specific details anymore, just general feelings, but I will always have the desire to go through those conversations with a fine-toothed comb, pick everything apart. Now, we have been presented with such an opportunity. It feels so easy to identify with one or both of the characters, feeling similar feelings. It feels like you can pick apart yourself and your thoughts and feelings by watching and studying this film.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
I watched this for the first time in the middle of the day, with the lights on, on my laptop. It still scared the spit out of me. That terror is only heightened when the lights go out and the screen gets bigger. Audrey Hepburn is my favorite actor of all time, and this is my favorite performance of hers.
The Devils (1971)
This film, this magnificent work of art, is madness and lunacy poured straight onto the screen. Impossible to tear your eyes away. A lot of what I see in these reviews is that this movie should get more recognition and respect than it does, and I will gladly through my hat into the ring in support of that view.
I see why Mads Mikkelsen doesn't emote a whole lot in his films. When he does, the emotions he evokes are overwhelmingly tumultuous. Hannibal inspires genuine fear, but here, his vulnerability and agony will tear your soul open, forcing you to look no matter the pain. A worthy movie if only for Mikkelsen, but there's plenty else there too.
Better than the IMDb Rating
I had fond memories of this episode, and upon rewatching it, it hooked me even more. I really don't understand why this isn't one of the better regarded episodes in the fan base, but I guess it will just remain a personal favorite.
I thought the character work was particularly engaging, even compared to surrounding episodes, the atmosphere was tense and held me in a grip that didn't let up till he credits.
La planète sauvage (1973)
I've been working through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, in order to gain a better base of understanding of film. A good number of them seem notable for one aspect but don't win me over as something great in and of itself. I was expecting this to be just another one of those.
Boy was I wrong. Did I get all of it? Absolutely not. But I was enthralled, from first frame to last, and I can't exactly say why. But I love it nonetheless, and recommend it for all, hoping that others will appreciate the bizarre.
Hable con ella (2002)
The obsessions of the two men, but especially Benigno, were just plain creepy. He spends the whole movie stalking her, rapes her while unconscious, and the story is a tragedy about him (in part)? Seems like it really misses the point. I understand trying to examine the other side of the story as this does, but it came across as more of an apologist piece for rapists to me.
That being said, it was very engaging and well crafted. I just think the message as a whole was off.
There are bad movies, and there are BAD movies. After 70 agonizing minutes, I realized this is genuinely in the running for worst movie I've ever seen. I can't think of a single redeeming feature, just the bad ones, from the wooden acting, truly unimpressive cinematography and staging, (I'd complain about the editing, but there is none), etc.
Best to just read the book and watch the Kubrick movie.
Designated Survivor (2016)
From Insightful Character Study to Cheap Propaganda
Originally, Designated Survivor was presented as surprisingly non- partisan, with subtle left-leaning tendencies, used primarily in subtext. Kirkman dealt with issues that would be difficult for anyone on either side of the aisle. For the secondary plot, the overarching "big bad" felt like an insidious, world-wide cabal (better than what The Blacklist tried), almost SPECTRE-like in its presentation. It was impressive.
In its four month break, the face of the United States changed, and it did not reflect well on the show. It became heavy handed propaganda about super partisan issues. I, unlike many of the people grumbling about its heavy-handedness, actually agree with what is being said. I also believe that propaganda is unacceptable, even if one agrees with it. This show crossed that line in the last handful of episodes of the first season, when I gave up.
The 7 rating is an amalgamation of a 9 for the pre-break episodes, a 6 for the post-break episodes, and a 5 for where it really looks like the rest of the show is going.
This Is Us (2016)
Short Film Drawn Out Too Far
The pilot was absolutely brilliant. Four characters at pivot points in their life, and it felt satisfyingly concluded by the end of the episode when they all decided to change. Sometimes you don't need to show the complete follow-through. To me, the most important thing happened in the first episode. Everything genuine happened there. It all feels so stretched now. I'll grant that on occasion, a good and genuine moment happens, but they have become few and far between, not even every episode. I'm on the sixth episode, and I think it'll be my final one. I'm straining to care about most of the characters, and the only one I do genuinely care about is William, and I don't think it a stretch to believe he won't live out the season, maybe not even the next few episodes, given how his character was established. I enjoy sappiness, I really do, but I enjoy it only when it can be genuine.
An Unfortunate Final Role for Robin Williams
As misleading as that title may be, I didn't hate this movie. It wasn't exceptional, and narratively it had many problems, and overall felt like it could have been taken in a different direction and had a better result, but it still wasn't bad. Why it hit so hard for me, and why I think the role an unfortunate final one for Robin Williams is because of how his life ended. More than a year after his death, it still hurts to see him suffer, even if it's in character. This movie is ultimately about a man who doesn't like where his life is going and turns it around towards something he actually wants. Yes it is left ambiguous whether or not it'll work for him, but it still came across as a bittersweet conclusion. What makes it worse for me is that Robin Williams wasn't able to do that, and I wish he could have. He has always been incredibly important to me, in a way no other actor could be, and I wish he could have had the turnaround his character did. I know I'm holding this against the movie, and that's really not fair to it, but it still hurts.
The Children's Hour (1961)
Telling of Societal Reaction
It would be so much easier to write this movie off as a dated movie, that things like that wouldn't happen anymore, but there are still far too many documented cases like what happened to Shirley Maclaine's character to write this movie off in that way. Everyone's reaction came across as "the homosexuals corrupt children", that they are insidious in nature, leading back to homosexuality being a choice. The main characters fought that, if passively, in the implication that Shirley Maclaine had no choice in the matter, as to who she loved. I hold very strongly that the mentality that society pushed at that time, and some still hold onto now, leads to the outcome of the movie. All I've been trying to say is that the movie is still incredibly pertinent after over 50 years, and I would love to see a time when this movie could be written off as just an historical piece.
In light of Christopher Lee's passing, may he rest in peace, I sought this one out because I hadn't seen any of his movies as Dracula, and this is generally well regarded and it's his first. As good as Lee was, the rest of the movie could not support him particularly well. Even Peter Cushing was disappointing. He made a good Dracula, even the diminishment to monsterhood, and I can only imagine how he would have been if the movie had been more loyal to the original interpretation of Dracula. Overall, as Lee has so expressed, this movie, and I'm sure its successors, are disrespectful of the source material. I should have known better and trusted what he'd said, and found a better movie to watch of his.
Grace and Frankie (2015)
Attempts to Mix Drama and Comedy
It was definitely a valiant effort to mix drama and comedy, but the comedy aspect was lacking. That being said, the dramatic element of the show was incredibly powerful and very moving. That outweighed the weakness of the comedy, and makes Grace and Frankie very compelling to watch, and it is worth sticking around for. Going in, I was fully expecting either the male leads or the female leads to be villainized right from the get-go, but shockingly, neither pairs were. This was only the beginning of how this show sets itself apart from other modern sitcoms. I certainly hope that Netflix can churn out more quality sitcoms like this.
Mozart in the Jungle (2014)
Promising Pilot, Disappointing Show
Overall, I was very unimpressed with Amazon's first batch of pilots, even Transparent, which apparently turned into an excellent show. Then I saw the pilot for Mozart in the Jungle. All the intrigue, what I assumed would be a new hard ass conductor, actually intriguing characters, and some excellent music; that's what I got from the pilot. In the span of when I watched the pilot and watched the rest of the show, something must have changed, my guess being the movie Whiplash. That showed musicians being pushed to and beyond the edge of what they can handle. That was a hard ass conductor, and he knew how to push them. The Maestro in Mozart in the Jungle was very easy on them, which came across as ridiculous since it seemed the show was meant to be about musicians trying their damnedest to give it all they have. It stopped being interesting to watch very quickly, especially with the only sporadic appearances from Malcolm Macdowell. It almost felt like a labor getting through the show, even for that disappointing finish. The only part that felt watchable was when they played. That was always well done. Apart from that, the show is not worth sticking around for.