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Author Topic: Respond to the last movie you watched (Jan 2011 - Nov 2013)  (Read 1495472 times)

1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15810 on: October 29, 2012, 12:49:34 AM »

Leave it on the Floor

When Bondo announced one of his favorite recent films was on Netflix Instant I started watching it on my lunch break. What I saw made me very apprehensive. Heavily montaged music video visuals mixed with the kind of sketchy acting you find in super indie films. I know the subject matter speaks to Bondo, and there are so few films aimed at this target demographic. I PM'd him and said I would finish the film but out of respect probably wouldn't write a review.

My opinion started to change during the song "Loser's List". This is when I realized that Leave it on the Floor isn't a music video musical, but one where the characters burst into song and dance. A musical proper. The song was okay, but I liked how it kept coming back, blending into the next tune "Ballroom Bliss". Like Dr. Horrible, separate songs here will often combine into a harmonious duet and that's always a great thing. While I was still a stranger to the world I started seeing the film less as cheaply-made and more of a scrappy independent. It was like Colma: The Musical, ...but this film quickly got much better.

The next highlight was a soulful sing to the rafters ballad "I'm Willing", expertly performed. Then in quick succession come the two most catchy ear-pleasing tunes. "Justin's Gonna Call" is a humorous story of one dancer's desire to choreograph a Timberlake video. (I do wish the dance here was stronger, but the song is as good as any pop tune you're likely to hear on the radio.) "Knock Them Mothaf*kk**'s Down", is the kind of upbeat Broadway style showtune that could bring down the house.

"This Is My Lament" is probably the most surprising. It starts as a soulful ballad, brings on tough-talking gangster rap, and then it blends the two. This is another surprisingly long one that keeps coming back with increased force. Really proud of how they stage and pull off this section, but I'm even more in awe of "His Name is Shawn", a song battle between the dancers and their disapproving parents and brothers. The film doesn't emphasize dancing until the finale, but the way the filmmakers stage and edit a scene like this soars well past my "Trolly Song" litmus test.

Leave it on the Floor veers into melodrama, delves through some familiar themes of betrayal and has a few bad performances (all in minor roles). However, once I got comfortable with it I liked it quite a bit. The songs are what really make this a couple of cuts above average. They're a better collection than Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and I'll be looking for the Soundtrack. I was watching this as a favor to Bondo, but it is a genuinely good film and worth seeking out.
RATING: * * *
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Junior

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15811 on: October 29, 2012, 01:26:54 AM »
Cloud Atlas (read the review with pretty pictures at Benefits of a Classical Education)

I read the book this film was based on earlier this year. It was shortly after seeing the amazing 6 minute trailer for the film that I became excited to read the book which had been sitting on my shelf for a few months. It quickly vaulted onto my top 50 books list at the 15 spot, a marvelous work of clever writing and profound ideas. It is a book of halves, each of six stories telling their first half a story going from a time when merchant ships and the slave trade were the big money makers to a post-apocalyptic far-future, which is the turning point after which the conclusions of all the stories come. It's weird, it works. Would the movie version retain this odd style? Would it even work as a film, with such varying sensibilities between the stories?

Well, I think it does work, though the film throws away the half and half storytelling technique for a more flowing narrative which brings all the stories into clearer contrast and parallel. It makes sense to show all the stories next to each other with similar scenes playing next to similar scenes. In fact, that's where the best parts of the movie come, when the stories line up and the action or drama of one story feeds into the next. It is, essentially, a tightly wound short film compilation. There are thematic and narrative crossovers, and the film takes its time to highlight them. It's a wonderfully constructed film, which is something I didn't expect. For a 2 hour and 40 minute film, it never feels long. There's so much going on, a sea adventure, a long distance romance, a conspiracy thriller, a hilarious farce, a dystopian future, and a post-apocalyptic trek up a mountain, and with all of that action there's hardly a moment to breathe. That's a plus. There are emotional scenes and they work generally as well as the action and "ideas" scenes.

Where the film falls flat, and it's only temporarily, in moments, is the acting. Tom Hanks was probably needed for the name recognition, but the film asks him to play six different characters. Tom Hanks is a great actor, but he's generally just Tom Hanks. He's good in half his roles in the film (including one which is played for laughs, an element that allows for some over-the-top-ness that Hanks gives it). He just doesn't fit very well in the final story, the post-apocalypse. It's the story that was always going to be the toughest to translate from page to screen, and Hanks' inability to sell the strange dialect doesn't help the transition any. His cohort in that story, Halle Berry, also has some rough times, though she comports herself well in that post apocalypse. She has one other large story role as an intrepid investigative journalist, and she does that ok, but I found myself bringing a lot of the personality from the book that she didn't bring herself. She's kind of blah. Luckily, they're the only two semi-weak links. Jim Broadbent is entirely delightful in all his incarnations, especially the farcical story about a publisher imprisoned in an old folks home. Hugo Weaving is the only actor to play the same kind of person in each of his roles. He's so perfect as a bad guy, and you can see echoes of his Agent Smith throughout his evil characters, but it's Old Georgie, a devilish character with green skin in the post-apocalypse story that is a standout. So awesome. Jim Sturgess does his best work here, especially in the sci-fi story, as does Doona Bae as a genetically engineered slave. Ben Wishaw is wonderful in the post WWI story of a young man composing the titular piece of music that forms the foundation of all the stories. The acting is superb overall, with a few rough patches. A movie this ambitious can't be perfect, I guess.

And now is the point in the review where I talk about the ideas of the film. A little on the nose? Yeah, but so's the film. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer adapted the book and directed and they basically took all the themes and passages and made them as obvious as possible. It was already a book that spelled out a lot of its ideas and the movie makes no attempts at subtlety. In fact, it often takes a highlighter and points out where the stories comment on the same things. This was work you had to do as a reader when the stories were separated from each other, but with the scenes placed next to each other the connections seem so obvious. Not that obviousness is a bad thing, it's just almost too easy to swallow. I don't even know if that makes any sense. Anyways, there's a lot of metaphysical stuff going on, reincarnation and re-finding the same love in different bodies. The main idea is that there are two people and that, no matter the form, they are meant to be together and touch each other's lives, along with the lives of those around them. So that's one half of it. The other half is the oppressors and the oppressed. All of the stories deal with freedom and what it means to have it and how those without it can find it. From slavery to the power of reputation to the tyranny of the system, it's got a lot of angles on the subject. They're mostly effective, too, which is cool. The book fleshes out a lot of the smaller ideas and relationships between the secondary characters and the primary characters, and fans of the film should certainly seek it out for a deeper and wider experience. As a film, though, it stands out as a towering work of ambition and, surprisingly, it's much less of a mess than I expected it to be. It'll probably end up in the top 10 of the year.

A-.
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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15812 on: October 29, 2012, 06:12:02 AM »
Red State


I could have watched another twenty minutes of that sermon in the middle, Parks was electric in that scene. The rest of the movie didn't really hold up for me as well. The chase scene was incredibly tense and frantic but then after that the action started to undo the film for me. I do agree though that it is worth a watch though.

That was my favorite part, for sure, but I thought it was a strong film overall, as well. I thought the shifts in character focus were smart and engaging. Unfortunately, the film's ending is very large and very abrupt.

(By the way, and because I keep these sort of things organized in a spreadsheet, Red State was my 31st favorite film from 2011, and Michael Parks gave my 2nd favorite male lead performance.)

Absolutely. I actually noted the point at which that section started - it's something like only 15 minutes in, and lasts for about 15 minutes. It's really ballsy film-making; disturbing, tense and shocking. The chase sequence that follows just about justifies the fairly clunky use of hand-held/POV cameras up to that point, as it's visceral and frightening. Sadly, it's a bit downhill from there...

Bondo

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15813 on: October 29, 2012, 06:45:53 AM »
Leave it on the Floor
RATING: * * *

So happy to read this...now I can say all three people who have watched it on my recommendation have enjoyed it. I didn't know how far in you were when you voiced your initial apprehension but Loser's List is pretty much the first song (I think there's a title sequence that hints toward a later scene)...but it is preceeded by a scene involving one of the worst bits of acting in the film, the main character's mother. Another person to whom I recommended the film singled her out as notably bad as well. So to anyone else who takes me up on this recommendation, hold on past that opening mother-son sequence.

For me, His Name Is Shawn is definitely the tentpole scene of the film, the one that dramatically puts the film on a strong level even if the plotting isn't always the strong suit. But like a comedy is at least somewhat significantly about laughs, musicals are about good music so I'm glad you found the songs on the whole as appealing as I did. I do like a good reprise/remix in a musical.

1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15814 on: October 29, 2012, 07:27:12 AM »
"Loser's List" was just about to start. Even though it was my first tell that this was a regular musical the presentation was still pretty montage-y and the song itself very bland. I still wasn't prepared for the much better tunes coming up. The main character's mother is the worst, but there are others. I agree that the worst section of the film is the first 10 minutes.

This got me thinking of Colma: The Musical, which now how me wondering how many more of these sub-indie musicals are out there. I'm also curious about the director. This isn't the calling card of a new indie voice, but if IMDB is to be believed it was helmed by a 62-year-old Canadian TV director. (Why is he not in your Survivor Marathon?)
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Bondo

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15815 on: October 29, 2012, 07:42:41 AM »
This isn't the calling card of a new indie voice, but if IMDB is to be believed it was helmed by a 62-year-old Canadian TV director. (Why is he not in your Survivor Marathon?)

All in good time. He's mostly worked in TV, albeit he has like ten things listed on Netflix. It's a very eclectic filmography though. Not sure where to go next.

1SO

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15816 on: October 29, 2012, 04:04:02 PM »
Marathon Update



The Poseidon Adventure
The Poseidon isn't really a ship. lt's a hotel with a bow and a stern stuck on.

For the most part the film succeeds despite lapses, partly because veteran director Ronald Neame... does generally good work here, highlighted, for example, by the very effective cross-cutting between the partygoers and the crew right before the wave hits.  There was probably more excitement in that mayday siren and in the visual of the wave than in any single moment in Airport.  That might be the very instant that disaster films transitioned away from Drama and into the Action-Adventure genre.

Iím currently in the middle of writing a screenplay. Itís a genre murder mystery, but what can transform a story from decent to special is the ability of finding strong, believable character beats an audience can latch onto. Until today, Iíd seen no version of Poseidon, but what immediately struck me here was everyoneís commitment to finding those moments. Yes, thereís some corn here too, and I donít know why we needed the evil ship company that allowed this disaster to happen. I was sold enough on the earthquake/tidal wave. Plus this...

Equally annoying was that the other primary source of conflict wasn't the ship or the water or the explosions, but rather Nonnie, who just couldn't go on ... she just couldn't.  When she just stalled on ladder, I wanted to throw something at the tv.  Even though her fear might be a realistic obstacle in that situation, it's hardly the most interesting one.

Ronald Neame makes an incredible decision typical of the surprising skill that went into this 70s disaster movie. The boat turns upside down. We get all the stunts and effects and the passangers screaming. Itís really well-done. Then Neame has the room go quiet. In reality, the screaming would probably continue much longer until it slowly died down, but here it just stops, giving the now spooky grand ballroom and eerie feeling of calm. During the calm, a giant metal Christmas tree comes loose. It lands on its top and crashes to the ground, clearly landing on top of some poor guy. I rewound and rewatched this 3 times, something I wouldnít do now when I would just assume the guy was digital.

Gene Hackman heads the ensemble cast and this film comes in the wake of his Oscar for The French Connection. It can be seen as his paycheck/sell-out film and there are a couple of screaming monologues that seem overblown today but were probably there to give him his movie star moments. However, I donít see this as a Hackman star vehicle because everyone else from all levels of acting experience are given plenty to do.

For an ďadventureĒ Iím sure spending a lot of time talking about the script and acting. You donít see that much with modern blockbusters. Itís not like the film doesnít work as an effects blockbuster. Even in the numerous films that followed, driving the disaster formula into the ground (the reason why I never bothered to watch this before) this remains an impressive piece of adventure entertainment. That might be because the disaster focuses on great stuntwork and editing instead of effects that would look dated. Or maybe itís because the writing, directing and acting are just that good.
RATING: * * *

Further Thoughts
« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 04:06:24 PM by 1SO »
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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15817 on: October 29, 2012, 06:32:12 PM »
The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, UK, 1997)

Few comedies stand the test of time - but this one does

I always approach comedies that are older than a couple of years with caution. The risk that they'll stink is too big to be neglected. You'd better be prepared to grab your nose and run in the opposite direction. With a few exceptions, they age so fast. More than once have I revisited movies and TV series which I remember as hilarious, only to discover that they're not funny at all. On the contrary I'm often embarrassed to find them full of sexist and racist jokes, and I ask myself how I could have missed that. I guess we're more stuck in the conventions of our time than we want to admit to ourselves. It's just that we can't see them, until we get a certain distance to them in time.

Considering those experiences I hesitated for a second to get back to The Full Monty. This is a British comedy from 1997 about a bunch of unemployed guys in Sheffield. Inspired by the Chippendales, they put together a dance routine to perform for the ladies at a local club, mainly to earn a few bucks, since the situation is getting pretty desperate for some of them.

I watched it at the time it came out and I remember that I really loved it.

But one day fifteen years had passed, just like that, and suddenly I wasn't so sure anymore. Guys performing some kind of strip dancing, wasn't that pretty dated as a gag regarded, on par with "the balloon dance"? The taboo around nakedness or men doing "un-manly" things such as dancing isn't particularly strong anymore. And with the taboo gone, what's there left to laugh about?

The question was: did I really want to find out? Did I want to revisit The Full Monty and see how it had stood the test of time? Or should I leave it alone, as a nice and beloved memory of a movie I used to love?

When I found it on Netflix earlier this week I thought about it - for about two seconds. And then I decided to go for it.

This turned out to be the right decision. The film hadn't deteriorated a bit. If anything, it was even better than I remembered!

Perfect balance
The mix between humor and drama is just so perfectly well balanced. You don't laugh at the men; you laugh with them. Or rather smile with them, because the humor is pretty low-key. But under the humor there's also a great deal of seriousness in it. Either they end up showing the "full monty" or not, they certainly dress off in front of the camera as human beings. We get to know them - and love them - with all their fragility, all their faults and weaknesses. And yes, I did tear up, more than once. And yet it never falls into the pit hole getting unbearably sentimental.

I guess you could call it a "feel good  movie" in one sense, but since it's set in a gritty British working class setting, the limit is far lower than the sky. There's no simplistic message suggesting that anyone can become anything they want in their lives if they just make an effort. This is far more down-to-Earth and therefore much more convincing and inspiring than the fairy-tales they love to tell us on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a hard time finding something negative to say about the film. I guess I could hold it against it that it it's unlikely that it would pass a Bechdel test. But again - I think it's understandable and defendable considering the topic.

The Full Monty gets my full appreciation - still standing strong after fifteen years. For a comedy that's pretty awesome.

My rating: 5/5
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Bondo

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15818 on: October 29, 2012, 08:02:52 PM »
I'm probably overdue for another viewing of The Full Monty (it would be my third). I consider it a complete and utter success but maybe have forgotten the full degree of that success in terms of whether and where on my top 100 it might belong.

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Re: Respond to the last movie you watched
« Reply #15819 on: October 29, 2012, 08:17:59 PM »
I've never seen The Full Monty.  Maybe it's time.
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