Tag Archives: cinema saturday

Cinema Saturday, 5/8/21

The Bourne Legacy

Year: 2012
Runtime: 2h 15m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Tony Gilroy

Writers: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Robert Ludlum

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

“What kind of weapon system is this guy operating?”

“He’s probably got a rifle.”

“It’s a high-powered rifle.”

Initial: I’m still recovering from my month-long horror-o-thon. I finished watching The Good Place and decided on a rewatch.

What Did I Think:
The Bourne Legacy is one of my comfort movies, which means I love it more than it probably deserves. I admire its chutzpah: a Bourne film without Bourne. I love its exposition: there’s a lot of it and it generally does nothing to elucidate the plot. And, despite its uneven pacing, I’m along for the ride because it’s double competency porn. Ed Norton and company don’t fail because they’re incompetent; they’re just less competent than the operative they’ve created. I also appreciate the Frankenstein overtones. Dork turned bad-ass Rachael Weisz is a scientist who has to face the consequences of Doing Science.

And besides, isn’t a movie about a grand bio-engineering government conspiracy exactly the movie I want to watch after getting my second mRNA vaccine shot?

Production Notes: If you want to watch a more well-regarded Tony Gilroy film (and one of my husband’s frequent rewatches), I recommend Michael Clayton (2007) with George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.

Cinema Saturday, 5/1/21

I spent all of April with an unusual (for me) posting schedule: (nearly) every day with Horror Movie A to Z posts as well as a couple of Reading Notes posts. But I wanted to get back to my regular schedule. So, here we are. It’s Saturday which means it’s Cinema Saturday!

First, I want to list my top five favorites from April’s event:

  • The Orphanage (‘El orfanato’, 2007, Directed by J. A. Bayona, Spain)
  • Rigor Mortis (‘殭屍’, 2013, Directed by Juno Mak, China & Hong Kong)
  • Blue My Mind (2017, Directed by Lisa Brühlmann, Switzerland)
  • La Llorona (2019, Directed by Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala)
  • Peninsula (‘반도’, 2020, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)

Honestly, I don’t go looking for international films. My criteria when I was making my A to Z list was 1.) films I hadn’t seen (or hadn’t seen in a long, long while) and seemed interesting/I’d heard of, 2.) newer films, and obviously, 3.) films with a certain first letter.

I actually didn’t watch any other movies during April. I did watch last year’s The Great British Bake-Off and am watching/catching up on The Good Place, since we currently have Netflix. I did watch one other documentary (thus far) on Shudder, Horror Noire, which I definitely recommend.

Cinema Saturday, 3/27/21 ~ On what makes a “good” movie

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Programming Note

Starting this coming Thursday (April 1st), I’ll be participating in Blogging from A to Z. My theme, in honor of Halfway to Halloween, is horror movies. Therefore, in April, every day aside from Sundays, I ‘ll be blogging about a horror movie. On Sundays, I intend to post some reading notes and whatnot.

Musings

Last week, I finished up The Film Experience via MIT’s Open Courseware. I really like movies; I like talking and thinking about movies and needed more framework for those thoughts. This was primarily a history course, especially looking at the studio system that developed in the US, with some diversions into what was happening concurrently in world cinema.

The class didn’t cover what makes a “good” film, but it got me thinking about my personal criteria for what makes a film successful. In literature, I’ve kind of narrowed it down (broadly) to world, characters, and plot. Pretty much a book has to be strong in two of these categories for me to have enjoyed it.

“World” is maybe the hardest in literature and should be the easiest in film. But for me, “world” in film is setting, set design, costume design, music, cinematography… Pretty much everything that the characters are interacting with and the filmmakers are providing to create the feel of the movie. It should be cohesive. A fantastical example is Blade Runner (1982)—the world building is excellent and even the slightly antiquated technology works within this setting. A non-fantastical example is Drive (2011). The setting early 2000s Los Angeles, but the score, cinematography, color grading, etc. make this a different place than the “real” world.

In literature, I don’t exactly favor morally good characters, but I do require characters that I want to spend time with (because that’s what I’m doing), even if it’s just to watch them carry out nefarious plots. In movies, I don’t have to spend as much time with the characters, but I do have to know who the character is and how they are going to act. A filmmaker/screenwriter has a more limited time frame to establish this. My favorite example here would be Strange Days (1995). Wardrobe and dialogue, especially, establish who Lenny Nero and Lornette Mason are. Establishing a character doesn’t mean that the character can’t change, but the change shouldn’t be entirely unexpected.

Lastly, plot. Something should be happening. As an audience member, maybe I know what’s going on. Maybe I don’t. Maybe the plot gets resolved. Maybe it doesn’t. I’m not against a little ambiguity. I’m not even against a certain level of nonsense; sometimes you just have to accept the premise of the plot. But the things that happen should be consistent for the world and consistent for the characters. I love the movie Zodiac (2007), but it’s a plot conundrum: a duo of police and a duo of journalists investigate the Zodiac murders; bureaucracy is their major hurdle. Nothing is resolved for certain by the end of the movie. For me, that investigation is enough (especially since the other two facets of Zodiac are very strong).

Anyway, these are my musings on movies. I’m still in the conceptual testing/challenging phase. (I’m not sure I ever move out of that phase.) Which means, in the coming weeks as I watch a bunch of movies, I’m going to think about what works and doesn’t and how those things relate to my opinions.

You can find me on Letterboxd.

Cinema Saturday, 3/13/21

There is some strong language in this trailer. Viewer’s discretion advised.

Falling

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 52m
Rated: R

Director: Viggo Mortensen

Writer: Viggo Mortensen

Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason

“It’s called a piercing, and, no, it doesn’t bother me.”

“Is it a dumbass fashion thing or a dyke thing?”

“Can’t it be both?”

Initial: Viggo Mortensen and Lance Henriksen. There was no way I wasn’t going to watch this movie.

Production Notes: Not only did Mortensen write, direct, act in, and produce Falling, he also composed the score.

What Did I Think:
First, it’s a beautiful movie. In interviews, Mortensen has talked about how, since getting money for the production took so long, he took to filming things, moments and places, when he could and when he saw something that he felt fit the film. All those little things end up giving this film a handcrafted and deliberate feel without feeling overly staged (like, for instance, in Oz Perkins’ films). The editing (by Ronald Sanders) is vital too. As the audience we’re experiencing many things from the point of view of a man suffering from dementia. We slip in and out of memories with Willis, and, while this is sometimes disconcerting, it doesn’t feel forced. We’re never being fed the past narrative, we’re simply experiencing it along with the characters.

Second, Willis could easily be a angry, bigoted old man that the audience never has any sympathy for. A lot of credit has to go to Mortensen’s writing and Henriksen’s acting for giving the character, if not ambiguity, nuance. It really is a very good performance in a very well-made film.


Sound of Metal

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2h
Rated: R

Director: Darius Marder

Writers: Darius Marder, Abraham Marder, Derek Cianfrance

Stars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci

“Serenity is no longer wishing you had a different past.”

Initial: The Sound of Metal has been on quite a few “best of” list for the last year or so.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers)
From a great looking movie to one with immersive sound design. As Ruben goes deaf so do we as the audience: the sound design takes on a muted, hollow, claustrophobic feel. It’s frustrating because, as a hearing person, I was straining to hear and understand other characters. It’s slightly anxiety-inducing. Likewise when Ruben has his cochlear implants turned on we hear the world through the tinny, screechy way someone with implants would experience the world. And sometimes, the film is just silent.

The Sound of Metal is a character piece and in that it is very effective.

Cinema Saturday, 3/6/21 – Rock ‘n’ Roll edition

Stardust

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 49m
Rated: Unrated

Director: Gabriel Range

Writers: Christopher Bell, Gabriel Range

Stars: Johnny Flynn, Marc Maron, Jena Malone

Initial: “There’s a David Bowie biopic that I know very little about on Hulu…”

Production Notes: The movie was made without the support of Bowie’s estate and contains no songs written by David Bowie.

What Did I Think:
David Bowie is my favorite musical artist. Philosophically, I feel that every fan should appreciate fandom in their own way. I’m not offended by a pretty lack-luster biopic. But…

I think if you’re making a David Bowie movie and you can’t use any of his music, you probably shouldn’t be making a David Bowie movie. On a story-level, the writers are hog-tied. The plot is: David Bowie comes through a disastrous American “tour” and discovers that the key to his success might be stage personalities, like Ziggy Stardust. And it could kind of work if all through the movie we heard the music that influenced Bowie and maybe a couple of the covers that he was known to perform. We’re in the US where, in 1971, Bowie isn’t well known. The American audiences don’t “get it.” But if you can’t have Bowie take the stage at the climax of your movie, after his performance epiphany, to the opening riff of “Ziggy Stardust,” you don’t have much of a climax.

Johnny Flynn occasionally looks like Bowie, but he has the thankless job of embodying someone with orders of magnitude more charisma than he has.

What is the point of this movie? Cash-grab based on the success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman?


Rocketman

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rated: R

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Writer: Lee Hall

Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

“Buy yourself some new clothes. Something flashy.”

Initial: Speaking of which.

Production Notes: It’s kind of nuts that Taron Egerton, who does all his own singing in this movie, didn’t get an Oscar nomination.

What Did I Think:
What do you do if you’re making a biopic of Elton John and you have the ability to use his music? You make freakin’ musical.

Most of the reviews I had heard/read when this film came out mentioned that it was often fanciful. And of course it is. It’s a musical. Not a film with a lot of music or, because it’s about a musician, musical performances. It’s. A. Musical. There are dance numbers. If plot points are occasionally on the nose and don’t conform to history, it’s because that’s how musicals are. I’m not a big fan of Elton John or of musicals, honesly, but I really enjoyed this movie. It was occasionally a little frantic, but overall fun.

Cinema Saturday, 2/27/21 : Terminator Edition

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

“Hey, buddy. You got a dead cat in there, or what?”

>POSSIBLE RESPONSE: >YES/NO
>OR WHAT?
>GO AWAY
>PLEASE COME BACK LATER
>FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE
>FUCK YOU

Initial: This is one of those movies that my parents owned on Beta video tape. I’ve probably seen it around a dozen times.

What Did I Think:
There are particularly two things that Cameron and Hurd do really well writing-wise in The Terminator that cause it to hold up pretty well in my opinion. (And maybe it’s mostly Cameron, because I see these things in Strange Days as well.)

First, expositional info dumps happen after the audience has been shown action. The audience is actually asking, “What is going on?!” before the movie tells us what is going on. And it seems to me, that if you need to info dump, that’s how you do it.

Second, character information is conveyed through the look of the character. Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese is a beat up dude. He’s got scars. We’ve seen Schwarzenegger get chronoported and walk away like it’s nothing. Reese is a huddled mass, post-chronoport. We know immediately who is the more squishy of the two.

Aside from those things, the film is also really well-paced and the effects aren’t half bad. I mean, this is 1984…


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Year: 1991
Runtime: 2h 17m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong

“We’ve got company.”
“Police?”
“How many?”
“All of ’em, I think.”

Initial: I do believe I first saw this movie in the theater with my sister for her birthday. Later, it became one of the first DVDs I owned.

Production Notes: Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton had a minor roles in The Terminator. Jenette Goldstein had a minor role in T2. All three were in Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987).

What Did I Think:
I didn’t like it as much as I remembered liking it. I’d say it is at it’s best in two instances. First, when it’s playing with audience expectations. The trailer pretty much lays out the “twist” of the movie, but it still plays coy when showing us the T-1000’s chrono-portation and it’s still pretty chilling in both scenes when John and Sarah see the original Terminator for the first time. We have enough empathy for these characters to know a little of their fear and the movie plays these scenes straight. Maybe, we think for a moment, he isn’t the good guy.

Second, the semi chase scene in the culvert is really good. Later action scenes run long and are maybe superfluous, but this one works really well. It has narrative, it’s exciting, and you know what’s going on the whole time.

Otherwise, the pacing of T2 is a little off. It kind of drags here and there. But it does do a decent job of being the sequel to a very popular, quite good original. And the effects were a massive improvement.


Terminator: Dark Fate

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2h 8m
Rated: R

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, Gale Anne Hurd

Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis

“What are you doing?”
“Future shit.”

Initial: I’ve seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) (I think…), but never got into The Sarah Connor Chronicles and skipped Terminator Genisys (2015). I really hadn’t intended to watch Dark Fate, but I saw a Tumblr gif set of a scene that seemed interesting, and it’s on Hulu, so… what the heck, I thought.

What Did I Think:
I’d heard that is was an okay movie, and that’s pretty much what it is: okay. Dark Fate ignores anything past T2, so it’s set up to be a more direct sequel to that.

I like how they decided to “level up” our combatants: a composite Terminator and an altered human, even if I found Grace’s necessary-for-the-plot weakness pretty dumb. The young cast of Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta bring the feel of young Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn to the movie, which is needed. Unfortunately, the story of Dani Ramos kind of gets subsumed by the Sarah Connor/Terminator story. There is a criticism that this movie feels like Terminator fan fiction, and it sort of does. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s probably not what you want to base your blockbuster on.

You might think that 28 years would reap better special effects, but not really. The Terminator effects are fine, but the Rev-9 is only slightly better rendered than the T-1000. The action scenes were decidedly worse. I’m sure the whole sequence on the crashing plane could have been very cool, but I couldn’t keep up with who was doing what where.

Cinema Saturday, 2/6/21

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rated: R

Director: Osgood Perkins

Writer: Osgood Perkins

Stars: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton

“I look for Him in the unlikely things that happen. Little coincidences.”

Initial: Figured I’d watch Oz Perkins’ first movie (the only one I hadn’t watched yet).

Production Notes: The original title of this film was February. I watched it on January 31st.

What Did I Think:
I can safely say that I like Osgood Perkins as a writer/director. His movies are probably not for everyone. They are slow and ponderous, but in only the best way. They’re unsettling and claustrophobic. The Blackcoat’s Daughter has more plot then I Am the Pretty Thing…, but is maybe the least interesting looking of the three movies Perkins has made (the other being Gretel & Hansel). Honestly, the problem cinemagraphically was that the cuts were too fast. I’ve become to used to the camera in Perkins’ movies lingering much longer than expected. With a contemporary setting, it is the movie of his that has stuck with me the longest, making my uneasy late at night.

One annoyance, plot-wise… (spoilers ahead)
Joan didn’t look older than the other girls to me. I guess that’s good for ambiguity’s sake; the plot twist is reliant on paying attention. But I ended up confused for a while because I thought I mis-heard a line of dialog.