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Old November 13 2010, 08:10 AM   #796
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

259. Fury [C+]
260. Conan the Barbarian [D+]

Fury: Fritz Lang's first American film is well-shot and acted (Spencer Tracy is rather good in it), but the editing leaves much to be desired and the plotting is too convoluted for its own good. It also manages to be a film about lynching that goes the entire running time without mentioning the racial history of the crime once (in fact, there are only two black actors in the entire film, and neither of which have substantial roles). The lynching scene IS terrifying, but once it's revealed that Joe (Spencer Tracy) somehow managed to avoid a raging fire and a dynamite explosion with only minimal harm, things don't quite work. Still, on purely visual terms, it's a notable example of film noir.

Conan the Barbarian: In honor of the passing of Dino De Laurentiis, some friends and I watched this fantasy film he produced last night. Alas, it's not nearly as good as its reputation suggests. Arnold grunts his way through the lousy script, with only an occasional reprieve brought by some surprisingly brutal sword fighting and a rousing musical score. Overwrought fantasy epics like this make me more fully appreciate what Peter Jackson managed to do with THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I'm optimistic for THE HOBBIT, but shudder at the thought of what the Jason Mamoa-starring CONAN remake will be. Worse than I can possibly imagine, probably.
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Old November 16 2010, 04:11 AM   #797
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B/B+)

Prelude to Potterdammerung, Part 1: Film Series Rewatch: The Columbus Years

Got my advance ticket for the Friday showing of Deathly Hallows, Part 1, so in the intervening days, I'm going to revisit the preceding six films. In the first installment, Chris Columbus' initial two entries, released in 2001 and 2002 - I actually don't think I've seen either of them for the better part of a decade (probably at least one VHS rewatch soon after they came out; heh, VHS, that was a while ago).

The two films broadly reaffirmed what I remembered: they're solid pieces of commercial filmmaking, and I think they get a bit undeservedly knocked in some quarters (they're certainly not bad), but the directors subsequent to Columbus really upped the game considerably, and they can't help but feel a bit pale in comparison. There's a palpable lack of atmosphere to most of both films - you can't help but wonder what Cuaron or Yates would have done with many sections (the bit where Harry is dying of Basilisk poison in CoS jumped out to me as a moment that could have had a lot more rung out of it). Both films probably skew a little longer in an admittedly understandable desire to include as much as possible (something that was obviously no longer possible with most of the later one-film adaptations, though GoF also suffered from this a bit) - the first film takes too long to get going, the second film takes too long to end.

All the same, plenty of plusses. As said earlier, the films are a solid foundation for future teams to work with - Columbus knew how to cast, if nothing else. It's particularly interesting to revisit the three young leads at their earliest. Watson was singled out as the standout in the initial release; looking back, she probably still is (I sometimes think she comes on a bit strong in the earliest scenes of PS, but that fits how the character comes across to Harry and Ron). I didn't notice Grint as much the first time around, but he's got great comedic timing here. Radcliffe suffers a bit for having what is in many ways the blandest part; his character isn't as quirky as the other two, so he has to basically do straight drama (the eternal curse of leads). It's not Osment-level work (remember him?), but he does well enough, and starting with the next film, he really starts to impress. And while Columbus' direction is generally not overly impressive, the Basilisk fight in CoS is actually one of the series' best action scenes.

One performance that doesn't especially hold up is Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Harris v. Gambon is, of course, one of the great debates about the film series, and while Gambon might play things a bit too aggressively on occasion, Harris really just doesn't have the energy the character requires (he was close to dying, of course, so we'll not be too harsh on him). I can't imagine him doing the fight scene in Order of the Phoenix at all convincingly.

Good stuff, but there's better things to come.

Oh, and the film series makes for a really interesting study of advances in FX technology in the last decade. Even between Philosopher and Chamber, the CGI used on the Quidditch games is noticeably improved - compared to the scenes in Half-Blood Prince, it's like a videogame.
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Old November 16 2010, 08:11 AM   #798
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

261. Murder in Trinidad [D+]

This little seen whodunit from 1934 is probably little seen for a reason. The colonial setting that manages to avoid all but a few black people is absurd, some of the plot points are hilarious (the two heroes give up the chase of a villain who has just thrown a knife at them in less that five seconds, which is very--unintentionally--funny), and a number of other complaints I've already forgotten about less than a few hours after screening it. And yet there's something oddly compelling about the sleuth, who is overweight, has a nasty habit of eating peanuts and leaving the shells on the ground no matter where he goes, and hardly possesses the motivation of, say, Sherlock Holmes (after his assistant is murdered, he rather nonchalantly proclaims that, "I guess I'll investigate the murder").

Another Bergman film tomorrow in 35--I hope it will be good.
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Old November 17 2010, 01:07 AM   #799
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

I saw an asian vampire movie called THIRST , it was subtitled.
It really wasn't very good.
The plot is a priest volunteers for a medical experiment, he is the only one of 500 to survive this man made virus. The downside is that now he is a type of vampire. Being a priest he holds onto his moral convictions but the vamprism is causing a type of moral rebellion inside him.
He ends up having an affair with a married woman from his youth, she always loved him. She frames her husband for abuse and the priestly vamp lets the evil take over him and he kills her husband. He then turns her and it spirals from there before he insists they both perish on a cliff as he sun rises.

Save yourself the 2hrs, however, the last hour was better than the first. It's the only thing keeping me from flat out calling it horrible.
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Old November 17 2010, 04:21 AM   #800
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B)
85. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (A+)

Prelude to Potterdammerung, Part 1: Film Series Rewatch: The Cuaron Revolution


After two back-to-back films, the series took an additional six months off, so when it came back in the summer of 2004 it had been gone a bit longer, and the change was even more pronounced. I go back and forth on whether Prisoner is my favourite of the books, but it's my favourite of the films so far (Order runs a close second, occasionally I think I like it more). When I did my Top 10 of the 2000s list, this was one of them.

Seriously, the difference between the first two films and this is just stunning; the aesthetics are so completely different, so vastly better, that it's stunning. There are some people who really hate this one (and, indeed, I do think Cuaron could have spared an additional five minutes for exposition without compromising anything), but it's telling that all the subsequent films have hewed fairly closely to Cuaron's visual style (albeit with fewer camera flourishes). The easiest way to describe it is that Hogwarts feels lived-in now, from the way people wear their clothes to the more realistic levels of cleanliness. And the interaction between the kids is much more natural and, until Half-Blood Prince, did the best job of capturing Hogwarts' social scene on film.

This is the first film where the FX are truly masterful; Buckbeak still holds up marvelously today, for instance. The performances from the actors take a quantum leap in skill. Gambon's Dumbledore just has the energy the character needs; the film has my favourite film-Dumbledore moment, his "Did what?" after the duo complete their mission. Also in the realm of great casting, David Thewlis was nothing like I pictured Lupin, but after the film was over I wondered how I had't seen him that way - he's excellent. Oldman's really good too, and he and Radcliffe manage to sell their characters' connection in fairly short order, without which the film wouldn't work.
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Old November 17 2010, 07:01 AM   #801
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

PoA is one of my favorite movies. Hogwarts comes alive in this film.
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Old November 17 2010, 12:18 PM   #802
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Yeah, I know a lot of die-hard HP fans that greatly dislike Prisoner of Azkaban, but it's definitely my favorite of the films so far. It really took the series in such a forward direction for the better.
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Old November 18 2010, 04:32 AM   #803
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B)
85. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (A+)
86. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (B+/A-)

Prelude to Potterdammerung, Part 1: Film Series Rewatch: Newell Directions

Cuaron unfortunately couldn't do this one, due to, among other things, production overlap, and after Newell things were entrusted permanently (as it turned out) to David Yates. Though I always hoped a little that he'd return, the succeeding hands were capable. The resulting film is, for a variety of reasons, not up to the standard of its immediate predecessor or its successors, but it remains a step up from the first two.

Most notably, we're firmly into the period where significant cuts have to be made to the material to make a suitable film. Newell and Kloves do a decent job, but there are concessions made here that eat up screentime better used for other things. Most notably: why is Rita Skeeter here? Miranda Richardson does a good job, and her scenes are quite funny, but they don't finish her plot (which was, frankly, a sideplot anyway) and the subsequent movies don't use her (and don't need to). That character should have been axed and the minutes redeployed elsewhere (reducing the choppiness of the opening would probably have been my main use, and perhaps a bit more wand-related exposition for those who haven't read the books).

All the same, it's on the whole very good. The writers, now by necessity, contine to innovate, introducing new stuff that fits the spirit of the books; as with Half-Blood Prince, the new character comedy bits are the most successful, and a lot of these I'd forgotten about in the years since I last saw this movie. McGonagall dragooning Ron as her dance partner, for instance - classic. They also conjure up a striking new dramatic tableau by having Harry conscious upon his return from the graveyard. The Death Eaters costumes are quite cool; I kind of miss them in the subsequent ones, though the redesign was cool too.

Ralph Fiennes joins the cast and does a good job as Lord Voldemort. Among the leads, Radcliffe continues to grow as an actor. Some of Michael Gambon's acting choices in this one have been criticized, and I do think he seems a little overly emotional, but the character is written that way in this one, so I'm not sure if he could have played it that differently. Showing Dumbledore so clearly at a loss is an interesting writing choice (in the book he was at arms length the whole way through).

Oh, and remember the days when it was "Cedric will be playing Edward" instead of "isn't that Edward as Cedric"?
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Old November 18 2010, 04:33 AM   #804
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Watched the original The Hills Have Eyes.
I see why some of these 70 horror movies have been redone.
The concept has merit and I'm now curious about the remake.
This wasn't a bad movie for it's era.
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Old November 19 2010, 03:37 AM   #805
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B)
85. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (A+)
86. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (A-)
87. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (A+)
88. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (A-)

Prelude to Potterdammerung, Part 1: Film Series Rewatch: The Yates Years (Part 1)

The franchise gets its final director, who would outlast Columbus and do four films, as many as all the others combined. Yates' style owes a lot to Cuaron, but he flourishes the camera a lot less.

Of the two films, Phoenix is the better; indeed, it vies with Azkaban for my favourite of the series. It's probably the best job of streamlining one of the big books into something that distills the essential conflict down (though unlike Goblet, this one was a lot more about mood and character than plot, so it was undoubtedly easier). Half-Blood is in a bit of an interesting spot, since Yates has opted out of most of the exposition, which was arguably the biggest point of the book; we get the rudiments of the horcruxes, but that's it. Depending on how things go in the next film, that could work fine.

Both films play the character interactions among the students for all its worth, and these are often the strongest parts of the films - and not just the Trio, and even primary support like Neville, Ginny, and Luna (Evanna Lynch is, of course, perfect), but the other kid actors, many of whom have been hanging around the set since the first film. The whole crowd comes to seem so familiar. Both films have some very good comedy, particularly the latter one; though on rewatch there was a bit in Order that I had forgotten: after Harry talks about how Cho was crying while kissing him:

Ron: You kiss that bad?
Hermione: I'm sure Harry's kissing was more than satisfactory.
Harry makes a "so there" face to Ron.

On the relationship front, I think these two do a decent job of bringing Ginny's character into frame, given how little she had to do in the previous ones in preparation for her rather significant role in the series' denouement.

If Yates' work has fewer obvious stylistic tics than Cuaron's, he still brings a very clean, cool style to things. The depiction of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, for instance, is way, way cooler than how it is described in the books (the Death Eaters and the Order apparating in black/white smoke, for instance, and fighting in smoke form, is really neat).
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Old November 19 2010, 05:32 AM   #806
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

I saw When in Rome with Kristen Bell and Josh Duhmel with Danny DeVito.
Cute little movie, not a bad way to kill 1.5hrs while I surfed the net also.
A renter for sure though.
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Old November 19 2010, 02:28 PM   #807
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
If Yates' work has fewer obvious stylistic tics than Cuaron's, he still brings a very clean, cool style to things. The depiction of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, for instance, is way, way cooler than how it is described in the books (the Death Eaters and the Order apparating in black/white smoke, for instance, and fighting in smoke form, is really neat).
One thing I have noticed with these films is how sometimes they downplay the action. For example, I remember the whole part where the Order invade the Department of Mysteries to be far bigger in scale and much lengthier, but in Order of the Phoenix that whole part of the book was scaled back considerably. It was a little bit of a letdown, because I had imagined this grandiose battle in my mind, but I felt like it was very diminished in the film version. I understand they had to truncate things for length and time purposes, but I was expecting a bit more grandeur for the big finale.

I have the same complaint for Half-Blood Prince. That book has hundreds and hundreds of pages where we get nothing but meddlesome romance between the younger characters and then things finally get interesting toward the last remaining hundred pages of the book. For some reason, the death of Dumbledore and then the invasion of Hogwarts just didn't have that sweeping quality that I expected. I did hear that a lot of the battle was cut to save for "The Battle of Hogwarts" at the end of Deathly Hallows: Part 2, but I remember reading the book and just being swept up in the drama of Dumbledore dying so suddenly after such a suspenseful build-up (and in the film version, I feel like it loses a lot of its impact: there is some build-up, but it's much more dramatic than suspenseful, and Snape actually killing Dumbledore for some reason didn't capture that sense of begrudging awfulness that it did in the book).

Half-Blood Prince is actually the most gorgeously shot of all the Harry Potter films, but there were some cases where I was expecting some grit and roughness and instead there was a bit too much gloss, if that makes sense. I understand that because these are films and not books that we can't get the gradual build-up that we can while reading a book for a prolonged period of time, but for some reason I was really let down at some of the punchier moments of these films. For example, Sirius Black's death felt meaningless to me. I'm sorry, but I wanted to get emotionally involved, but it just didn't pack the emotional punch I was expecting.

These might be quibbles about the adaptation process more so than the execution of these books, but I remember when Cedric died at the end of Goblet of Fire and how emotionally affected I was. Perhaps because that was the first legitimate death in the series, and Newell played it much more broadly (whereas Yates' style is more restrained), but I felt more moved by it than the death of Sirius. Also, the action in Goblet of Fire is much punchier and more exciting. We still haven't gotten any more rousing action sequences in the series since the Golden Egg scene in Goblet of Fire. I understand that book was plotted much more in the vein of a traditional action thriller than the rest of the books, but for some reason I feel like the remaining movies have lacked in suitably exciting action quotient since Goblet of Fire.

Anyway, these are minor quibbles. The acting, cinematography, and pacing have all really for better or worse improved since the first few films, and I mostly attribute that to Alfonso Cuaron's economical pacing. Since Prisoner of Azkaban, the subsequent directors in the series i.e. Newell and Yates haven't been so chained down to keeping a laborious pacing for these films because of the hefty material. As a matter of fact, they flow a lot better than Columbus's first two films. I just wish some of the more punchier moments felt more exciting and dramatic similarly to how I read them in the books, but I guess that's more attributable to Yates' more restrained style, which is admirable but just a little disappointing.
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Old November 20 2010, 01:08 AM   #808
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

262. Summer with Monika [B+]
263. The Terminator [B-]

SUMMER WITH MONIKA: This film is technically terrific, but the Monika character can be, at times, so grating that it's hard to watch. In the end, the film is downright cynical, so don't be distracted by the summer mentioned in the title--by the end of the picture, summer has come to an end, literally and figuratively. I think I still prefer PERSONA and SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, but this is a solid entry into Bergman's extensive filmography.

THE TERMINATOR: Cameron's debut feature (at least, his debut feature where he had any semblance of creative control) is an outstanding work of exploitation, whether the conditions of shooting (which were very tough) are considered or not. And yet, its grunginess at times gives way to cheapness (besides the stop-motion effects in the finale which don't quite hold up, the Future War sequences often feature over-sized Terminators that look like toys, as well as plenty of unconvincing rear-projection) and there are a pile of side characters who don't amount to anything (basically, any of the cops, including Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen).

On the other hand, the dark, gritty camera work is excellent and the principal cast are all terrific in their roles. Michael Biehn manages to sell us on a character who fell in love with a photograph, for goodness' sake.
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Old November 20 2010, 03:49 AM   #809
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

Harvey wrote: View Post
263. The Terminator [B-]
THE TERMINATOR: Cameron's debut feature (at least, his debut feature where he had any semblance of creative control) is an outstanding work of exploitation, whether the conditions of shooting (which were very tough) are considered or not. And yet, its grunginess at times gives way to cheapness (besides the stop-motion effects in the finale which don't quite hold up, the Future War sequences often feature over-sized Terminators that look like toys, as well as plenty of unconvincing rear-projection) and there are a pile of side characters who don't amount to anything (basically, any of the cops, including Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen).

On the other hand, the dark, gritty camera work is excellent and the principal cast are all terrific in their roles. Michael Biehn manages to sell us on a character who fell in love with a photograph, for goodness' sake.
THANK YOU. Finally some fair and objective judgment of this movie. I was getting really sick of all the overpraising of it in the "Terminator and T2" thread. You're exactly right, it has some fine acting and a surprisingly touching love story, but the effects (among other things) are so shoddy that it flabbergasts me how people would hold this movie up as superior to "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", which has transcendently more slick effects and a monumentally more epic scope and feel.

I recently saw "Ordinary People" for the first time. It seems my whole adult life, all I've ever heard about this movie is that it's the one that 'robbed Raging Bull of the Oscar' just like "Shakespeare in Love" robbed "Saving Private Ryan" (although in the latter case, I agree). The general consensus seems to be that the Academy are a bunch of pussies who would rather nominate something nice and maudlin over something shocking and gritty (again, in the case of "Shakespeare In Love", I agree). I went into "Ordinary People" expecting to hate it and leave just as outraged as everyone else about its defeat of "Raging Bull", but I ended up thinking the right movie won.

I still love "Raging Bull" and I do think part of the reason this movie won instead of it is because "Raging Bull" is such an ugly, disturbing film (not ugly in the way it looks, but in terms of subject matter and the main character's personality), but "Ordinary People" is, in a very different way, also a very powerful movie (at least in my viewing experience). The performances and dialog were superbly heartfelt and convincing, and I really felt for the characters and their suffering, dysfunction, and inability to understand and comfort one another psychologically and emotionally. I was moved to tears several times.

I don't think it stole best picture from "Raging Bull", but even thought it was almost as beautifully shot as it was acted and written, the Academy should have at least given Scorsese the award for best director. There's no way any movie nominated that year (including "Ordinary People") was shot with as much enthralling flair as "Raging Bull".
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Old November 20 2010, 02:37 PM   #810
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Re: Movies Seen in 2010

80. The Corpse Bride (B)
81. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (B+)
82. Beauty and the Beast (A+)
83. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (B)
84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (B)
85. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (A+)
86. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (A-)
87. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (A+)
88. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (A-)
89. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (A)

Discussing this over in its own review thread, but here I'll just say that it's provisionally an A, waiting on the second part, but I don't see any reason why that wouldn't be as good.
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