Author Topic: What was the last movie you watched?  (Read 1527252 times)

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Offline Charles Castle

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16785 on: May 16, 2016, 09:24:00 PM »
Every time I revisit Joe Dante's Piranha (1978), I can't help but think that it's the living end of the New World Pictures eco horror films. Dante, screenwriter John Sayles, and producer Jon Davison, provide a movie that has all of the elements demanded by the drive-in audience of the day: blood, boobs, a social conscience (to assuage the guilt of wallowing in an exploitation film like this one), anti-establishment posturing, the whole nine yards. Further, the film doesn't even try to "transcend" these elements, whatever that means. No, it positively wallows in them. This isn't really any different from other New World eco horror films like Frogs and Humanoids from the Deep. I'll grant you all of that. But these particular filmmakers are too smart for that game. While it wallows in the conventions of a stock drive-in rip-off of Jaws (the filmmakers prefer that it's a rip-off of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which it specifically name-checks), it's also a sly commentary on them. It's the exploitation film as meta-text. Dante has subsequently proven that no one does this kind of thing better than he does. This goes a little bit beyond homage. It seeps into the very structure of the film.

One example: Dante is extraordinarily adept at the match cut, in which the first image of the next scene is a comment upon the last. In some cases, he has this reversed, and some cuts are comments on scenes yet to come. As a result, the first time we see Heather Menzies's character, one of our ostensible heroes, she's playing a Jaws video game. This is a sly dig at the notion that the film is a rip-off of Jaws, but it also matches the mayhem in the film's final act. As I said, commentary and structure both. There's also a Godardian element to this. In the lab at the beginning of the film, there are a number of fish mutants, including a Harryhausen-esque stop motion beastie that has NOTHING to do with the movie. He's a throw in. Why is he there? Because the filmmakers felt like throwing him in, no other reason. It doesn't hurt that he's pretty creepy, and charming at the same time.

I dont suppose that this is the first of the self-aware horror movies--Wes Craven had already been making them for years at this point--but it's certainly the film that created the template for them: Know the rules, let the audience know that you know the rules, break them in creative ways. Piranha clues in a movie-savvy audience with its opening shot, a steal from another, more famous movie.

Of course, none of this would matter if the film wasn't fun and scary, which it is. It has pretty good fish puppets, courtesy of Rob Bottin. It has fairly engaging performances from its leads. The film is refreshing in so far as our two leads are totally responsible for the disaster, and the film doesn't let them off the hook because they're the protagonists. Beyond Heather Menzies and Bradford Dillman, the film is littered with entertaining character actors: Barbara Steele as a sinister government scientist, Kevin McCarthy as the creator of the piranhas, Dick Miller as a weaselly resort owner, Paul Bartel as a stuck-up summer camp dictator, Belinda Balaski as an unfortunate camp counselor. I met Belinda Balaski once; I asked her what she did to Joe Dante to make him want to abuse her so in his movies. She kind of laughed at that. Barbara Steele gets the movie's punch line. Ostensibly talking to the press, she assures the audience that there's no danger from the piranhas after they've been dispatched. Of course, Steele is the closest thing to an old-school horror icon in this movie. She's an actress known for portraying sinister characters. Would YOU trust this face as she tries to reassure you?



I don't think I would.

There's also a refreshing urge to one-up Jaws, something that none of the other Jaws rip-offs ever even attempted to do. Piranha does this in two ways. First, it has a MUCH higher body count. There are two feeding frenzies at the end of the film that leave bodies littering the beaches. Dante, ever taking jabs at the media, has a TV announcer describe it thus: "Terror, horror, death. Film at eleven." Second, the filmmakers have taken note of Spielberg's willingness to have the shark gobble a little kid in Jaws, so they serve up an entire summer camp of them and DON'T back away from it. The kids are fair game just like the adults. It's kind of a mean thing to do in a film that is otherwise amiably funny, but it's a touch that keeps it firmly in the realm of the horror film.
You know, if the space man puma thing turns out to be the correct religion, I for one will be very surprised.


Offline Charles Castle

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16786 on: May 21, 2016, 11:16:38 PM »
I reviewed Joe Dante's Piranha last week and this post is kind of a companion piece. My wife and I were supposed to watch Humanoids from the Deep (1980, Barbara Prefers) first as part of a double feature, but the videotape met with misfortune upon insertion into the machine. We were disappointed--particularly because the DVD of Piranha had a trailer for Humanoids that got us riled up--but them's the breaks when you're dealing with obsolete technology, I guess. In any event, it wasn't hard to repair the tape, and the only footage I lost from the incident was a short piece of the FBI warning. Some Scotch tape and a pair of scissors later and the tape is just fine.

The old New Horizons VHS had an interview with Roger Corman at the beginning, in which he explained his theory of monster movies, which is the classic "tease the audience with glimpses for the first two acts before the big reveal" technique. "The audience can fill in the monster better than we could," he said, "especially on our budgets." In the case of Humanoids from the Deep, he needn't have worried. Rob Bottin provided some swell-looking fish men. I like to think that if anyone ever wanted to put Lovecraft's Deep Ones on screen, they might look a bit like Bottin's monsters here. I seriously doubt that Lovecraft would have approved of this film, even if the subtext of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (among others) implies the kinds of inter-species rape that Humanoids from the Deep makes explicit. In any case, if Humanoids from the Deep has a fatal flaw--and it certainly does--it's that it never strays outside the comfort zone of New World's eco horror formula. Worse, since this movie came out two years after Piranha, that formula had already started to get deconstructed by smarter filmmakers.

The plot here involves a fishing village being terrorized by biologically engineered fish men who are driven to land to spawn... with HUMAN women! Yeah. I'm sure that's EXACTLY how it was pitched to Corman. You get the stock characters of the New World eco horror movies: the brash young native American standing up to the ravages of corporate America, the evil racist who views the new cannery as progress no matter how much pollution it spews, the comely scientist who explains everything. It's easy to point out the stereotypes. This film also borrows a serious mean streak from Piranha when it comes to throwing dogs and kids into the maw of the beast. Oh, and it has Doug McClure, who made a lot of these kinds of movies. Also like Piranha, this has a few future Oscar nominees in the crew: James Horner (still a slave to the style of Jerry Goldsmith), Bottin, editor Mark Goldblatt. Corman's fabled eye for talent is all over this film, and it has its rewards. It's an extremely attractive movie. It looks a LOT more expensive than it probably was.

Corman's interview at the beginning of the tape notes that he only looked at ability when he hired Barbara Peeters to direct this movie and I'll give Corman props: He has a long history of giving female filmmakers a chance. You can occasionally see what having a female director brings to the movie, too. Ann Turkel's scientist fulfills a familiar role here as the bringer of exposition, but she's significant for what she doesn't do, namely: she's nobody's love interest. You can even see a wry commentary on what a capable woman has to deal with in the dance scene when she is stuck dancing with her weaselly co-worker, who is literally and figuratively less than she is. Peeters also gets some mileage out of stranding Doug McClure's wife, played by Cindy Weintraub, alone at the end of the movie. While McClure makes it back, he arrives after she's already dispatched the besieging humanoids on her own, no men required. This is all well and good, but what gets left out of Corman's interview, though, is the fact that he also fired Peeters for refusing to do reshoots to include more nudity and raping fish men. Viewers who don't know this background might be surprised that a woman directed a film as completely drenched in misogynist imagery as this one, and it goes well beyond the slimy-rapey way it literalizes the unspoken horrors of all those movie posters and pulp covers with bug-eyed monsters carrying off scantily clad women. Horror movies have been riffing on the supposed horror of childbirth for decades, but the final scene of Humanoids from the Deep trumps everything before or since. True, it's a rip-off of Alien, but it's so preposterous and so spectacular that it sears itself into your memory. Once you've seen it, you don't forget it. On the whole, this movie is supremely unpleasant, but this scene really takes the cake.

So, essentially, you have a movie in which there's a disconnect between production values and story values. On the one hand, you have polish and artistry and, yes, the pulp vitality of a really good exploitation movie. On the other, you have complete and utter schlock. It's shameless about the schlock, which is essential in this sector of filmmaking. You also have a disconnect between what the director intends and what the producers demand. This tension is irreconcilable, and more than one critic marks this film as the point where Corman's productions shed their inventiveness and their wit and started to devour themselves. That all said, I have to admit that I have more than a fair amount of affection for this movie, even though it appalls me to admit it. I remember watching it every time it came on HBO when I was a kid, and I realize that my obsession with this movie then was totally about the boobs and blood and the outrageous climax. Corman knew his audience. I think most horror fans have a little of the adolescent sadist in them--I know I sure did--and this movie caters to adolescent sadism like few others. It's kind of perfect that way.
You know, if the space man puma thing turns out to be the correct religion, I for one will be very surprised.


Offline RoninFox

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16787 on: May 22, 2016, 07:46:47 AM »
Just watched Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the first time in at least 15 years. I remembered it as a good, intense, dark movie and I appreciate it even more now. Insanely well written and performed. Showed it to my wife, who hadn't seen it and knew nothing other than the title and that Taylor was in it. Seems like it blew her mind as much as it did to me when I first saw it. I was surprised how much the ending still shook me considering it was the part I remembered clearly. The line "My god, I think I understand this" stuck with me for years and it's just as haunting now.

If you haven't seen it, just see it.
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Offline RVR II

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16788 on: May 22, 2016, 01:08:56 PM »
The Black Hole (1979)
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16789 on: May 22, 2016, 10:10:08 PM »
Blind Fury ( 1989 )
A while back I contributed to a thread on a now defunct Asian movie website discussing why Hollywood has all but ignored Japan's Zatoichi. While most successful foreign movies either get an American remake, or at the least end up as a property stuck in a long term development hell, nobody seemed interested in Zatoichi even though that series ran for 26 movies, which had resulted in a major cult following in the U.S. even though they were period Japanese films only available with subtitles. We pretty much concluded that Zatoichi was unadaptable to America. The history of this continent included guns from the first day Europeans arrived. When Christopher Columbus first set foot in America, some of his men had firearms. There was no period in time one could set an American Zatoichi where he could not be shot. And then there was the problem of depicting a blind man without insulting anyone. 

Unless you want to believe the urban myth that Quentin Taratino wanted to remake one of the Zatoichi films, there was only one time there was an attempt to adapt the Zatoichi series to America. Tim Matheson was better known for playing Otter in the movie Animal House ( 1978 ) and in the years after starred in many Animal House inspired teen comedies. By 1989 the roles were drying up, and he had resorted to starring in Speed Zone, the worst of the awful Cannonball Run movies. (  Cannonball Run II ( 1984 ) was so bad that distributor Orion Pictures decided to disguise that this was a sequel. Cannonball Run III a.k.a. Speedzone was worse. ) Deciding that it was time to make the move to behind the camera, Otter became a producer. His first and only theatrical film was Blind Fury, a remake of Zatoichi Challenged ( 1967 )  that was suppose to be the first in a series of Blind Fury movies. And who else would you hire to adapt Zatoichi for Americans than Charles Robert Carner, the writer who wrote the script for Gymkata ( 1985 ).

By all rights Blind Fury should not be a good film. But despite the missguided attempt to bring a blind swordsman into the 20th century in a country where every criminal carries a gun, and despite a novice producer and the writer of Gymkata, Blind Fury is not that bad. In fact, I probably would have liked it a lot had I not seen the superior Zatoichi films it was based on. Rutger Hauer plays Nick Parker, an American soldier fighting in Viet Nam who ends up permanently blinded by a mortar attack, and while wandering around the jungle blinded, captured by villagers. Instead of killing him they immediately adopt him, and for no apparent reason train him to be a swordsman. In the opening credit montage we see him gradually learn his skill so well that he can slash a melon tossed through the air into four equal slices. After spending 20 years with the villagers Nick finally returns to America and sets out to Florida to find his old war buddy. But once at his home he just finds his wife and son, and is told they had been divorced for years. In the sort of contrived timing that only the writer of Gymkata can come up with, a group of thugs show up minutes after Nick, demanding the ex-wife to turn over her son. She refuses and is shot. Nick pulls out his cane sword and kills the thugs. The dying wife asks Nick to take her son to Reno where the father is now living.

A remake of Zatoichi Challenged, which in turn was a remake of an earlier film in the series Fight, Zatoichi, Fight ( 1964 ), those films has the mother attacked because she was mistaken for Zatoichi. He barely knows the woman, but agrees to take her son to it's father because he feels responsible for her death. ( they actually reused the same plot again a couple of years later for the Zatoichi television series. ) There was no coincidence of Zatoichi just happening to be at the murder of his old friend's ex-wife. I was willing to accept the bit about the Vietnamese villagers teaching Nick to be a master swordsman. But the timing on Nick arriving at the woman's house on the same exact day that a crime boss in Reno decides to kidnap the son, and only minutes before the thugs arrive, was just too hard to swallow. Craner then decided to make the son an unlikable brat, so after a while you no longer care if he gets to his father safely.

Nick's war buddy, Frank Deveraux ( Terry O'Quinn ) is an honest chemist who a crime boss and casino owner ( Noble Willingham ) has kidnapped to force into making him synthetic drugs. ( The boss wanted Frank's son kidnapped to coerce him into making the drugs. ) Once again here is how Craner completely missunderstood the source material. Many of the Zatoichi films had the swordsman visiting a gambling parlor. There he would use his phenomenal hearing to hear exactly how the dice in a cup fell. He could also use his hearing to tell when trick dice were used, ending with him slashing the dice in half with his sword to expose the weight inside. But in this movie, it is not a game of dice that Nick plays, but roulette. The Japanese dice game had the gambler bet on high or low. Roulette has the gambler pick one of 38 numbers to bet on after which a ball is tossed into a spinning wheel and falls onto a number. There is no way Nick could use his hearing to determine which number to bet on, especially since the ball is not even dropped onto the wheel until all bets are made. And yet, somehow Nick ends up winning again and again. In the Zatoichi films he usually walks away with his winnings, only to be accosted by a group of thugs from the gambling hall looking to get the money back. Craner doesn't even give us that. Instead Nick starts a riot in the casino when he uses his sword to upend the roulette wheel, proving to everyone it had a magnet below for whenever they wanted someone on a hot streak to lose. The patrons get into a fight with the casino staff while Nick sneaks off so he can rescue Frank.

Another thing Craner added to the script was really bad jokes. For example, when the boss finds out that the same blind man has been thwarting every one of his kidnapping attempts he orders his lieutenant to "Get me Bruce Lee!"  to which his lieutenant says "Bruce Lee is dead." and the boss says "Then get me Bruce Lee's brother!" As if an actor like Bruce Lee could be hired like a common hitman. Amazingly though, they do manage to hire Sho Kosugi to take out Nick. And here is where director Phillip Noyce gets some of the blame. The showcase fight with a well known martial arts star is a dud. In the first few seconds of the fight a lamp is knocked over into a hot tub, electrifying it. The same tub that Nick and Sho end up fighting next to. For no apparent reason Sho jumps onto a trapeze that the boss inexplicably has in his lair and attempts to slash Nick while swinging on it. But instead Nick cuts one of the ropes the trapeze hangs from sending Sho into the electrified Jacuzzi. this is followed shortly after by Nick slashing the head henchman ( Randall Tex Cobb ), and causing him to fall through a window and down the side of a cliff where we watch his body separate in half. I have no idea if this idea came from Craner or Noyce, but it is the only decent original moment in the movie. Haters of The Phantom Menace ( 1999 ) have often accused George Lucas of ripping this scene off for the ending of that movie when Darth Maul also gets cut in half. The only other good moments were all taken from random Zatoichi films.

Siskel and Ebert once picked Blind Fury as one of their top ten all time guilty pleasure movies. I know exactly why. It is undoubtedly crap. But enjoyable crap, provided you never saw the films it was based on. The Zatoichi films gave you the joy of watching a blindman mow down an army of thugs with his sword. Blind Fury is reduced to having it's blindman duck behind objects to avoid being shot and only killing the foes he is able to sneak up on. Instead of fighting an army, he takes on groups of four or five. The one time he does get to act like Zatoichi and take out an entire room full of thugs, it is because Frank has turned the lights in the room out. This gives Nick the advantage of not being seen, but also means we can barely see what is going on.  My advice to anyone looking to see this, not to bother if you have already seen the Zatoichi films. But if you have never seen Zatoichi then you just might enjoy it.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 10:12:36 PM by stethacantus »


Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16790 on: May 22, 2016, 10:19:09 PM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.


Offline Darth Geek

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16791 on: May 23, 2016, 07:27:20 AM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.
It's really the presence of Otto and Ms. Tessemacher that diminishes his character. He even asks why he has such idiots around him, but doesn't answer it.



Offline ScottotD

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16792 on: May 23, 2016, 07:32:17 AM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.

Hackman almost saves that movie for me, he's fantastically over the top
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Offline RoninFox

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16793 on: May 23, 2016, 07:58:03 AM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.
It's really the presence of Otto and Ms. Tessemacher that diminishes his character. He even asks why he has such idiots around him, but doesn't answer it.

He surrounds himself with idiots so he is more intellegent by contrast. His ego requires him to be the smartest in the room with no room for question.

I used to hate his take on Luthor, and I still rank it as my least favorite version of the character, but I admit it fits the movies he's in.
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Offline Darth Geek

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16794 on: May 23, 2016, 09:40:18 AM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.
It's really the presence of Otto and Ms. Tessemacher that diminishes his character. He even asks why he has such idiots around him, but doesn't answer it.

He surrounds himself with idiots so he is more intellegent by contrast. His ego requires him to be the smartest in the room with no room for question.

Except that he is intelligent. So you'd think he'd be able to have competent henchmen (that don't screw up his plans) that he'd still be plenty smarter than.



Offline RoninFox

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16795 on: May 23, 2016, 02:40:40 PM »
Rewatched the Richard Donner Superman last night.  Gene Hackman is an absolute delight in that movie.
It's really the presence of Otto and Ms. Tessemacher that diminishes his character. He even asks why he has such idiots around him, but doesn't answer it.

He surrounds himself with idiots so he is more intellegent by contrast. His ego requires him to be the smartest in the room with no room for question.

Except that he is intelligent. So you'd think he'd be able to have competent henchmen (that don't screw up his plans) that he'd still be plenty smarter than.

Yes, but he exaggerates things because WACKY FUN!
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16796 on: May 25, 2016, 09:49:26 PM »
I haven't posted in here in ages. Here are a few films I watched recently:

Sisters - Really loved this. Really funny. Why does it have such a poor Rotten Tomatoes score? Take a walk down the reviews and see which gender mostly gives the film a thumbs up and vice versa. That's probably enough to tell you if you are likely to enjoy it or not.

Saw the next five films on the big screen:

Our Man in Havana - A very good, but not great Carol Reed film. In general I prefer Alec Guinness in other kinds of roles - I find his comedies less enjoyable than his serious work. He reminds me of Peter Sellers in comedies, and he's another comedian I could never get into.

Hobson's Choice - I'm on a real David Lean kick at the moment. This is a battle of the sexes film, with Charles Laughton really hamming it up in the lead. Fun and entertaining. Also, not Lean's best work, but that isn't really saying much.

Odd Man Out - Tremendous film - Really glad to watch it again, and on the big screen with a fantastic restoration. It's not quite as perfect a film as The Third Man, but it's still an incredible film. James Mason is fantastic here.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - A real delight. One of my favourite films by two of my favourite directors. It's a film that unfolds in an unusual way, it's told in episodic parts over the course of Col Blimp's life but it pulls together quiet beautifully.

A Passage to India - Another good, but not great film by David Lean. I expected to at least really love the cinematography, and while it was nicely shot, it was all in 4:3, I guess because HBO funded the film.
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16797 on: May 25, 2016, 09:53:03 PM »
Also, a friend of ours has really gotten into classic films, so we've started a weekly movie night. So far we've screened:

Design for Living
The Palm Beach Story
The Maltese Falcon
Charade


I'm tracking them on Letterboxd, and writing about how they go over with the group, here.

Tonight I plan to screen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
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Offline Pak-Man

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16798 on: May 28, 2016, 01:05:36 AM »
Just saw X-Men Apocalypse. Liked it. Not quite as good as Future Past, but it's up there.


Offline JimJ

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16799 on: May 28, 2016, 04:17:15 PM »

Sisters - Really loved this. Really funny. Why does it have such a poor Rotten Tomatoes score? Take a walk down the reviews and see which gender mostly gives the film a thumbs up and vice versa. That's probably enough to tell you if you are likely to enjoy it or not.

My main problem with Sisters is the same problem I have with a lot of recent comedies, it's too long. Very few comedic premises can hold up to a 120+ min. runtime. Otherwise,  I thought it was an OK film but nothing special.

Speaking of comedies, I just got out of Neighbors 2 which I thought was really good. I think it surpasses the original, which i also liked a lot, which is pretty rare for a comedy sequel. I know a lot of people have soured on Rogen over the past few years but I'm still a fan and I also love Chloe Grace Moretz and am glad to see her in something good after the atrociously mediocre Fifth Wave movie earlier this year.