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Mini Reviews that leave Large Exit Wounds 
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Burning Godzilla
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The Great Wall is pretty awful. It was double disappointing for me, because I've really liked a lot of director Yimou Zhang's previous work - Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower. Like those, TGW has awesome costume design and color selection. That's pretty much where the comparisons end. Story takes a back seat to spectacle here. It's not long until we're subjected to the film's primary conflict: humans vs lizard things! They're just kind of...there...attacking the Great Wall with great gusto. It takes a while before they let us know what these things are and even then it makes little sense. Neither do the Chinese battle tactics - it reminded me of Starship Troopers in that regard.

But what makes the least sense is the casting of Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, and Willem DaFoe in this film. Pascal and DaFoe in particular aren't given a lot to do. Damon has a strange lilt to his English. And their casting leads to one of the most annoying conventions in the film - Chinese characters speak Chinese subtitled in English, then someone translates what they said, literally, to the English speaking characters. Over and over and over. I'm surprised they didn't catch this in the initial screenings - the subtitles just weren't needed.

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Sat Jun 17, 2017 3:58 am
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Bandits - Barry Levinson directs Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett in a light comedy about a bank robbing duo, Joe Blake and Terry Collins, who have a very successful streak of robberies in which they kidnap bank managers the night before and rob the bank at opening. Cate Blanchett is the frustrated housewife who manages to get involved into a romantic triangle with Willis and Thornton. The influence of two highly skilled actors, Blanchett and Thornton, make Willis raise his game to their standard. There is nothing particularly heavy about the movie - it's more about the growing complexity of the relationship among the three - and how they deal with becoming a modern day version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The style of the bank robberies grows steadily hilarious as bank managers go from being surprised to being excited to host the famous bank robbing duo in their home. (Bruce Willis' daughter, Scout, who nwas about 11 at the time, has a classic cameo as the daughter of a bank manager's family. Unfazed by the presence of bank robbers at the dinner table, she asks the unwelcome guests if they want to see her do something neat. She then proceeds to rip off a belch so loud and gross, I am absolutely certain her father gave her a standing ovation. Trivia notes that Willis said there was no enhancement. That was Scout's belch.) It's a great semi-caper comedy aided in no small part by the chemistry among the three leads, Levinson's directorial smarts, and a well-written script.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 - After the unrelenting bleakness of Logan and the do-nothing but advertise upcoming Marvel movies that was Dr. Strange, it was nice to return to the brilliant continuing parody of Marvel Studios movies. James Gunn does nearly everything right. He even accomplished that rarity of rarities in Marvel movies: the villains were as memorable as the main characters!
My one quibble is that the CGI imaging of young 70s Kurt Russell had his hair WAY TOO flowy and curly. Members of this board know Kurt Russell's career from the 1970s and, yes, he had a lot of flowing locks. But seriously, he did not have THAT much. His coiffure was so teased, it almost made him a male version of 80s Madonna. However, seeing all that ridiculous, David Cassidy-like hair was also a good source of humor - which the movie had in great abundance. Other have already remarked on how much fun it is to watch this movie and, in many ways, it exceeds the triumphs of Wonder Woman with its excellent range of characterizations throughout the movie. It is rare that a movie could have that large a cast and still manage to convey such depth of characterization. It remains the best of what Marvel is currently producing. I'd like James Gunn to remain at the helm, but I would not blame him if he sought new challenges in movies to direct.

Addendum: I don't think enough has been made of Michael Rooker's performance as Yondu - or at least I have not read much that talks about it - but he does a great job here. I really appreciated the contrast between his work here on this blockbuster compared to his characterization of one of the lead Klan murderers in Mississippi Burning and his truly disturbing and frightening performance as Henry in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. (That's a movie I can't bring myself to see again. Rocked me to the core, it did, and not in a way I care to repeat.) But that was Rooker's film debut, by the way, and he has had an admirable career since, and an apparent long-standing friendship with Gunn. Hell, he even has a voice-over role in the video game written by Gunn called Lollipop Chainsaw.

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Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:19 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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Just saw Doctor Strange myself and I must say it was one big missed opportunity. A fantastic cast given little to do but plug the character into Marvel's standard first film.

I'll quibble with you about GotG 2-I thought it was missing most of the charm, humor and heart of the first one. Maybe I just prefer to see the band get together than play, I don't know. I did love Kurt Russell, but then I almost always do.

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Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:07 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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ProfessorMortis wrote:
Just saw Doctor Strange myself and I must say it was one big missed opportunity. A fantastic cast given little to do but plug the character into Marvel's standard first film.

I'll quibble with you about GotG 2-I thought it was missing most of the charm, humor and heart of the first one. Maybe I just prefer to see the band get together than play, I don't know. I did love Kurt Russell, but then I almost always do.


It's been long enough between seeing the first one and this one that the same tricks worked for me. But I don't know if Gunn could go to the well a third time and not have it seem a little stale. But who knows... the movies are very much his "babies" at this point. (I think it might be interesting to see what they do with surly teenage Groot.)

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Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:53 pm
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Doctor Strange did feel like a big yawn. Of course, I had people talk it up quite a bit before I saw it. I just felt like it was killing time.
GOTG 2 I thought was about as much fun as a superhero film can be. The antagonist was much more compelling than any I can think of in a Marvel film.

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Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:44 pm
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Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

Striking visuals are the most remarkable feature of this offbeat shocker from director Mario Bava. The main character is a remarkably handsome young man who calmly informs us, in voice over narration, that he is insane. We're not terribly surprised, since we've already seen him indulge his hobby of murdering women with a hatchet on their wedding nights. (The first murder that we see -- there have already been many others, it seems -- is committed on a train, while the bride is in the arms of her groom. No mention is made of the husband, but I assumed he had to be killed also. The police inspector on the case never mentions anything but the murdered women. Interesting.)

Anyway, the madman runs a fashion house that specializes in bridal gowns and such. He inherited it from his mother, but the money to operate comes from his wife. Their marriage is an unhappy one, but she refuses to give him a divorce. Whenever he kills a newly married woman (or, in one case we see, an engaged woman wearing one of the wedding gowns he sells) he remembers a little more about the trauma he suffered as a child. (The full nature of which probably won't surprise you.)

The film's major plot twist requires a SPOILER.

He kills his wife, and she comes back as a ghost that only other people can see,
so they think she's alive. That was a fascinating variation on the theme of a haunting.


Beautiful, darkly poetic, and not explicitly violent. Recommended.

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Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:19 am
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The Sentinel (1977) This is a neat horror film from the late 70s where a woman lands a gorgeous apartment with low rent and an eclectic group of neighbours, including a lesbian couple who when asked what they do for a living reply "We fondle each other" and you have Burgess Meredith throwing birthday parties for his cat, but of course it turns out everyone in the apartment building is a damned soul and the place is actually a gate to Hell. People should really read their rental agreements more closely. The movie is a fun watch but it does stumble during the third act when it abandons our main character to focus on her slimey boyfriend as he tries to investigate the apartment. It's not a great horror movie but one I can easily recommend checking out.

You can read my full review here:The Sentinel

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Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:57 pm
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Burning Godzilla
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I recall seeing this one when it first came out. It's interesting to note that I don't remember the police investigation subplot at all, but I remember the "eccentric" tenants and the sentinel quite well. Perhaps the strongest memory I have is when we see the records on all the sentinels over the years and they change from typewritten to hand written as they go far back in time. The use of people with real deformities to play the damned souls emerging from Hell probably isn't in the best of taste, but you could say that about Freaks as well.

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Dark tears for is alabaster muse lost forever into the unforgiving jade daggers of the night. Her slim form no longer to touch his burning lips, her blood like the thorny rose no longer his, O Death! O Oblivion! Why havent you come! I wait in my garden of shadows for thee! -- Juniper releases her inner Goth.


Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:05 pm
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Victoria Silverwolf wrote:
I recall seeing this one when it first came out. It's interesting to note that I don't remember the police investigation subplot at all.
And that the police officers are played by Eli Wallach and a young Christopher Walken was a pleasant surprise.

Victoria Silverwolf wrote:
The use of people with real deformities to play the damned souls emerging from Hell probably isn't in the best of taste, but you could say that about Freaks as well
Yeah, and when you learn those people had to eat lunch separately from the rest of the cast it seems even worse.

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Fri Jun 23, 2017 2:21 pm
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I actually thought GOTG 2 was better than the first one; felt looser, weirder, and less stuck on following the traditional comic book movie arc. And it had a not crummy villain, which was lovely.

John Wick Chapter 2: Oh man, I absolutely adored this movie. If anything it's more violent than the original, gorgeous to look at, consistently inventive, and the series so far has one of the best approaches I've seen to building a mythology: all we ever get are glimpses of a larger world, and each one of those glimpses is tied directly to the story, so that you never feel like you're sitting through a lecture. And the ending was so great that I'm torn between wanting more, and not knowing how they could possibly top it. Has a definite Lone Wolf And Cub vibe throughout, albeit minus the Cub.

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Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:57 pm
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The Emperor and the Assassin (1998) - Chen Kaige's 150-minute historical epic was the most expensive film in China at the time, what with its cast of thousands, faithful recreations of 3rd century BC military hardware and whatnot. I expected a bit more pomp and excess, like Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower, but in the beautiful flowing costume department, it actually feels restrained. The story is a dramatization of the famous assassination attempt on the King of Qin (known as Shi Huangdi and named Ying Zheng in the film), as carried out by Jin Ke (played by Zhang Fengyi--the personage was the basis for Jet Li's character in Hero and also Donnie Yen's character  in Highlander: Endgame). This is not a martial arts film per se, but there are some brief battle sequences and a few other scenes that assuredly required an action director. Nothing stands out, though. Despite presenting Jin Ke as a master assassin, the climatic "showdown" between the two title characters is disappointingly sloppy. That said, the film has good acting and a fair rendering of the King of Qin as a man with a noble vision, but whose crescent paranoia drove him to become the butcher of the sort he was opposed to. While not outright graphically violent, there are a number of scenes that are disturbing in what they imply.

Look for a young Zhou Xun in an important supporting role in a flashback sequence.

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Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:54 am
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Marlowe wrote:
John Wick Chapter 2: Oh man, I absolutely adored this movie. If anything it's more violent than the original, gorgeous to look at, consistently inventive, and the series so far has one of the best approaches I've seen to building a mythology: all we ever get are glimpses of a larger world, and each one of those glimpses is tied directly to the story, so that you never feel like you're sitting through a lecture. And the ending was so great that I'm torn between wanting more, and not knowing how they could possibly top it. Has a definite Lone Wolf And Cub vibe throughout, albeit minus the Cub.


One of my favorite parts is when John is setting up for the assassination in Rome, and we see there's an entire network of retailers that connect to the Continental, and that's when you realize that of course there would be because how else could you keep such things quiet.

They're making a third film, although like you I have mixed feelings on the subject between "They left it wide open" and "can they top this". Apparently they're also doing a prequel TV series detailing John's life before the impossible assignment for Vigo, which I have rather lower hopes for.

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Sun Jun 25, 2017 7:21 pm
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Hman wrote:
The Emperor and the Assassin (1998)

Is that the one where Gong Li got her face branded?

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Mon Jun 26, 2017 2:18 am
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supersonic man wrote:
Hman wrote:
The Emperor and the Assassin (1998)

Is that the one where Gong Li got her face branded?


It is indeed.

One thing I liked about it was that the acting didn't overdo it on the stoicism like most period pieces of the post-CTHD era tend to. The acting is a lot more natural.

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Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:08 am
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Movie Mike wrote:
The Sentinel (1977) This is a neat horror film from the late 70s where a woman lands a gorgeous apartment with low rent and an eclectic group of neighbours, including a lesbian couple who when asked what they do for a living reply "We fondle each other" and you have Burgess Meredith throwing birthday parties for his cat, but of course it turns out everyone in the apartment building is a damned soul and the place is actually a gate to Hell. People should really read their rental agreements more closely. The movie is a fun watch but it does stumble during the third act when it abandons our main character to focus on her slimey boyfriend as he tries to investigate the apartment. It's not a great horror movie but one I can easily recommend checking out.

You can read my full review here:The Sentinel


I know there's a bit part for a 20-something Jeff Goldblum, but I think Sentinel also featured a few other actors who later make a name for themselves in the movies.

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Mon Jun 26, 2017 2:01 pm
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