Viewing recap for August

Locke (2013)
All takes place in one night, with Tom Hardy character talking to people over the phone in his car. Doesn’t sound that fascinating, but was told in a suspenseful way. His accent seemed forced though, as if he was behaving like someone older.
Favorite quote:
“You’re the complete opposite to me, all the things I love mean absolutely zero to you”
Rating 8/10

Biutiful (2010)
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and Javier Bardem's central performance also received an oscar nomination. Set in the seedy underworld of Barcelona, the story involves people who make money in illegal ways, bribing and running from the police, and so on. Bardem is not a well man, and his relationship with his girlfriend/wife is tumultuous. Their two children experience all this mayhem first hand. The story is slow-paced and takes a long time to get going, it's overlong and a little predictable, but does have its powerful moments. A film where you don't need to watch every second to get the gist of the story.
Rating 7/10

Almost Famous (2000)
I love the bus scene with the song Tiny Dancer, and love the compilation soundtrack, but I don’t see it as masterpiece as others do. While good, I’m hesitant to call it great. Granted the premise is interesting and it won awards. I’ve now seen both directors cut and theatrical versions but I just don’t get the fuss about this movie and find it quite overrated.
If you ask me, Say Anything (1989) and Vanilla Sky (2001) are more emotionally engaging movies.
Rating 7.5/10

Purple Rain (1984)
I agree with another reviewer that the soundtrack is too good for the movie. However I was impressed how the lyrics often fit with what’s happening in the film.
My favorite part is when Prince listens to father character play piano and the father says “No man, I don’t have to, that’s the difference between you and me” when Prince asks if he wrote the music. I don’t know if he in actual fact came from a dysfunctional family, those scenes feel autobiographical.
Fans have been trying to work out the meaning of "purple rain" for decades now. Some believe it’s about the end of the world, a theme Prince was interested in mid-80s. This quote from His Royal Badness suggests the apocalypse wasn’t far from his mind:
“When there’s blood in the sky - red and blue = purple.. purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god" guide you through the purple rain”
According to band mate Lisa Coleman, the song symbolises “a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor"
Quotes from NME
Rating 6/10

Junebug (2005)
Amy Adams delivers a memorable performance as the socially undisciplined, but cute and lively farm girl. My favorite sequence is when George and his new girlfriend Madeline arrive at the house, and Ashley (Amy Adams) asks her all kinds of awkward questions. I didn’t think the rest of the movie was as strong as that early sequence. The ending was quite powerful and thought-provoking.
While uneven in the middle part, I'd still call it one of the better independent films of recent years.
Rating 7.5/10

American History X (1998)
The part in prison struck me as the most powerful. The story is a nuanced depiction of racism, neo-nazism and hatred, and not just showing us evil Nazis. The moral of the story is simple, yet very impactful.
Rating 8.5/10

Whale Rider (2002)
I didn’t think the first hour was that interesting, but the last part is unforgettable and very moving, especially when those whales are stranded on the beach and what happens afterwards. The female lead is the youngest ever to be nominated for Best Actress.
Rating 7/10

Traffic (2000)
Very well-paced, like a thriller, never bored for a second by the multiple stories. Characters feel very authentic, although Michael Douglas segment is quite heavy-handed in the way it plays out.
Rating 8/10

Burn After Reading (2009)
Brad Pitt is very funny in this one. I would have liked the film even more if the profanity was less. The ending scene didn’t need to be so violent, especially for a comedy.
I liked how The Coen’s made fun of how obsessed people are nowadays with fitness and their appearance, it's a good topic for some laughs.
Rating 7/10

A Shot In The Dark (1964)
Pink Panther sequel directed by Blake Edwards A highlight is the billiard table sequence, also the way Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is arrested is amusing. Clouseau is funny, but even funnier to me is his boss Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom)
Favorite quote: ”Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world”
Rating 7.5/10

Subway (1985)
Directed by Luc Besson. The film is atmospheric and about 75% is filmed in the underground Paris metro, I would say it’s more about the setting than the plot. Benefits by a couple of exiting chase sequences. The ending is strong, but there’s hardly any characterization. The romance between Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani was not that believable, which felt forced, even though they are both rebels/outsiders. I was never bored, though it did feel like fluff. Style over substance.
Rating 6/10

Mystic River (2003)
Retwatch. Very well-acted. Like Zodiac, the story is pretty much solved by the end of the film, and like rewatching Zodiac, less ambiguous than I remember. Still very very good, but not great. The filmmakers in both cases are too eager to spoon-feed the audience solutions to the mystery.
Rating 8/10

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
A couple of strong scenes, when the ghosts visit them by the table, and the waterfall scene when she looks into the water and sees a more beautiful version of herself is a highlight too. We also see a cave which glows in the dark and a huge illuminated birthday cake. While beautiful on the eye, the film has too many boring passages, and lack a sense of direction.
Rating 6/10

Adaptation (2002)
Nicolas Cage does a good job playing twins. I love how there is enthusiasm for an original script, and mocks how his less talented brother writes a script full of clichés and the studio pay good money for safe formulaic stuff. Both a celebration of originality and a comment on how studio excutives sometimes don’t know what is good or bad. I also like the journeys the characters go on, and one of the smarter movies from Hollywood.
Rating 8/10

Monsieur Verdoux  (1947)
A captivating story starring Charlie Chaplin as a serial killer, you can’t help watching even though he is a monster. However I almost did turn off the film when he attempts to poison that poor girl. There are unrealistic aspects such as characters speaking English in France, and wives not checking up on what their husband does for a living, which was a bit implausible considering the number of deceptions going on.
Rating 8/10

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Won the Palme d’Or and nominated for 5 Oscars. A gimmicky musical where every line of dialogue is sung by the characters. The wallpaper in the umbrella shop and the women’s house is very colorful, as is the alleyway.
Rating 8/10

Frantic (1988)
A tense kidnapping thriller set in Paris with Harrison Ford. Polanski at his most mainstream. Good, but not particularly memorable. The final scene is too similar to a Bond movie from the 80s.
Rating 7/10 

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I don’t have a lot to say, other than the performances, soundtrack, and visual style are top notch. My favorite scene is when Royal takes the kids out for a fun day. The actual story isn’t that great, and for me the weakest part of the film.
Rating 8/10

Trading Places (1983)
How it will end is too predictable. Eddie Murphy was funnier in other films. Surprised at the racist moments.
For me, the only laugh-out-loud moment was the jacuzzi scene with Eddie Murphy.
Rating 6/10

Fame (1980) 
Directed by Alan Parker, who is a director I admire. The spontaneous dance sequences in the cafeteria and in the street are so full of life that you can’t help letting the positivity effect you.
An entertaining coming of age drama/musical, but also full of clichés.
Rating 7/10

Rules of the Game (1939)
A rather dull watch. For me, an overrated classic. Granted the dialogue has its moments, but I felt nothing for these characters. We follow members of upper-class French society and their servants just before the beginning of World War II, showing their moral callousness on the eve of impending destruction. Depicting “people, who might have had an influence in shaping the world, but did nothing to prevent an advance of Fascism; some of whom actually welcomed it". 
The rabbit hunt scene is often compared to the senseless death that occurs during war; Renoir said he wanted to show a certain class of people killing for no reason. Renoir himself had never killed an animal and called hunting "an abominable exercise in cruelty"
Rating 6/10

Lifeboat (1944)
A group of people are stuck in a lifeboat. In the opening credits their ship sinks. Well-acted and technically impressive. A rather one-sided portrayal of the Germans. Hitchcock was very pro-allies.
Rating 7.5

Enen (aka Case Unknown) (2009)
Under-appreciated Polish drama, directed by Feliks Falk. Raises questions about how mental patients should be treated, what is the best way to recovery, and ethical questions about locking someone up and their right to free will. Open to debate if the doctor (main character) is brave or reckless in attempting to advance his career by jeopardizing his family and digging into old wounds.
The filmmaking style is quite bland and unremarkable, so it’s mainly for the story and performances you should watch.
Rating 8/10

Tillie and Gus (1933)
Fun to see WC Fields (Augustus) have a side-kick in the form of his ex-wife (Tillie). The card game on the train is a great little scene. The paint mixing part was hilarious, following instructions from the radio.
However the dice throwing scene in China doesn’t make sense, as Tillie knows the dice are doctored with, yet she still goes ahead.
“Passing years have slowed you on the draw, my little cricketie”
Rating 8/10

You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939)
Comedy starring W.C. Fields. Not as funny as his best comedies. Has its moments, my favorite scene is near the end when he talks about snakes at the party.
Rating 6/10

Six of a Kind (1934)
Ensemble comedy. The best parts are with WC Fields, who plays pool, acts as a salesman, and 
the big dog in the car was also pretty funny.
Favorite quote “Are you busy? About as busy as a pickpocket in a nudist colony”
Rating 5.5/10

Poppy (1936)
WC Fields comedy.
The guy who wanted to return five bottles was my favorite character. The croquet scene was probably the highlight.
Rating 6/10

Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

The music of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (part 3 of 5)

Album: Henry’s Dream (1992)
The album is considered by some to have a vague "concept", i.e. song narratives overlapping and/or sharing characters. On first listen I'm not as passionate about the record as his fans seem to be. A few of the songs are just too intense for my taste, though I have a feeling the album will grow on me over time.

Favorite tracks:
I had a Dream, Joe
Straight To You
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry

Favorite lyrics:
Well, the moon it looked exhausted
 Like something you should pity
 Spent an age-spotted
 Above the sizzling wires of the city
 Well, it reminded me of her face
 Her bleached and hungry eyes

Album: Let Love In (1994)
While not as well-known as 1996's Murder Ballads, I feel  Let Love In (1994) works better as a full album, with more variety.

Favorite tracks:
Red Right Hand  (Subsequently included on the X-Files compilation Songs in the Key of X (1996). A remix was used on Scream 2 soundtrack)

Nobody's Baby Now
I Let Love In
Do You Love Me?
Do You Love Me? (Part 2)

Favorite lyrics, from I Let Love In:
“Despair and Deception, Love's ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in
Darling, you're the punishment for all of my former sins”

Album: Murder Ballads (1996)
As its title suggests, the album consists of new and traditional murder ballads, a genre of songs that relays the details (and often consequences) of crimes of passion. "Where the Wild Roses Grow," a duet featuring Cave singing with Kylie Minogue, was a hit single and received two ARIA Awards in 1996. Murder Ballads was the band's biggest commercial success to date, most likely helped by the unexpected repeated airplay of the "Where the Wild Roses Grow" video on MTV. MTV even nominated Cave for their "best male artist" award of that year, though this nomination was later withdrawn at Cave's request. Entertainment Weekly rated the album an A and warned it was "Not for the squeamish, this is the rare pop record that resonates with the weight of the ages,"

Thoughts: Stagger Lee could be some of the most vulgar lyrics of his career. I love 2-3 songs from the album(see below), but overall I find the LP a bit impersonal and disconnected from reality. Granted the tribute to old-fashioned storytelling was the concept, and Nick Cave’s lyrics are well-written, but I don’t feel much about it, and I wouldn't listen to the album often. For me, slightly repetitive that all the songs are about death and murderers. Perhaps as with Henry's Dream (1992) repeat listens will win me over.
Fun trivia: The death count on the entire album comes to 65, or a mean average (rounding) of 6.5 deaths per song.

Favorite tracks:
Where the Wild Roses Grow (featuring Kylie Minogue)
Henry Lee (featuring PJ Harvey)
The Kindness Of Strangers

Favorite lyrics:
“And I've been known to be quite handsome. In a certain angle and in a certain light”

Any thoughts on the music? Have you listened to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds? Or are you new to the band as I am? As always, comments are welcome. Part 4 of 5 coming soon.

2014 Blind Spot series: Castle in the Sky (1986)

Castle in the Sky (1986)

My contribution to Ryan McNeil's 2014 blindspot series blogathon, where I watch a film each month that I have never seen before.

Japanese animated feature. Certainly the most mainstream and action/adventure orientated of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen. The chase story is reminiscent of Indiana Jones.
There’s definitely a little social commentary, that we shouldn’t misuse the earth’s resources for selfish reasons, which in the film is in the shape of the powerful crystal weapon, which comes from the earth.
Pity about the overlong running time of over two hours, which is quite common for Asian productions.

While My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and The Wind Rises (2013) I was moved by emotionally and felt suitable for both young and old, Castle in the Sky left me unmoved, and I would say the target audience is younger than I am.
Wonderful animation, average characterization and story. The situation is really just goodies vs baddies. The film is not bad, but I guess I expected more considering it's ranked  in the IMDb top 250. My least favorite Miyazaki film so far.
Rating 6/10 

Have you seen Castle in the Sky or other Miyazaki films? Are you a fan of his style?

Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far (2 of 2)

My favorite viral videos of 2014 so far part 2 of 2. I shared the other five videos in part 1 of 2. Considered including an ALC ice bucket challenge, although I don't think those videos are that amazing, did I miss a good one?

Eyes on the road Volkswagen ad  (1 min)

Look Up by Gary Turk (5 min)

Frank Sinatra vs Freddie Mercury - Epic Rap Battles of History (2 min)

World's Toughest Job  (4 min)

Epic proposal from 26 countries 4 years in the making (6 min)

Feel free to comment on the choices above, or share your own!

New music

Cosmo Black by Dynatron (from COLD IN JULY soundtrack. Reminds me of Refn's Drive)

American Dream Plan B by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Love the guitar)

Pickles From The Jar by Courtney Barnett (Album due in early 2015)

High Ball Stepper by Jack White (His new album has really grown on me)

Would You Fight For My Love? by Jack White (”But I can't kiss you 'til you lift up your chin. You have to want to stop being alone”)

Fever by The Black Keys

World Peace is None of your Business by Morrissey

Istanbul by Morrissey

The Pictures Of Sasha Grey by Kristeen Young  (Sounds remarkably like Kate Bush)

Endless Sleeper by The Raveonettes

A Place With No Name by Michael Jackson (While a little similar to both America's "A Horse With No Name" and MJ's  "Leave Me Alone", I still feel the new track holds its own. Can't get out it of my head.)

Wanderer Wandering by Slow Club

The One That Lives Too Far by John Fullbright ("Some folks make something out of nothing, some people have to cry too long. While others wait beside the window, wondering why the wind would blow so strong”)

5785021 by Jessy Lanza  (From compilation album Hyperdub 10.2)

Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far (1 of 2)

According to me, here are the Top 10 viral videos of 2014 so far.

Ian Up For Whatever - 2014 Super Bowl Ad  (4 min)

Dan and Jackie 05.31.2014 (live)  (10 seconds)

Will Ferrell and Chad Smith Drum-Off  (Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) (6 min)

Useless Box Kit from ThinkGeek  (30 seconds)

Seasons Waiting On You by Future Islands (live on David Letterman) (4 min)

Have you seen these before? Or other great clips that you loved from this year? Be sure to watch the next 5 videos in Part 2 of 2 next week.


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