Movies You Watched in March 2020
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This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month. Please feel free to post them as you see them, or if you prefer post a summary of all films at the end of the month. Also you can comment and discuss freely as others talk about films they've seen.

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1. Board Game: Western Legends [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:259]
Board Game: Western Legends
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Once Upon a Time in The West (1968)

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A couple of tough hombres help usher in the railway and set the mythical wild west aside

Charles Bronson has always been old.

Woo boy, this is a pretty good cowboy picture. Although I reckon it will raise some hackles in this crowd, I've always been lukewarm on the Dollars trilogy. This movie has a good deal more substance to carry the Leone's signature style. The only real shortcoming is Moriconne's score, which is much more sub-dude than his more celebrated works - not inferior, just notably less badass, more traditionally orchestral. That said, the sound design itself is pretty bonkers, with lots of experimental uses of sound vs. silence, a bunch of discordant electric guitars and the weird harmonica synth? sounds they use for Bronson. Further viewings may well turn my mind on the music.

I've never been big on westerns; they are my dad's movies and I have never really been hooked by the myth of the west they way I feel the boomers and early gen xers were. Once Upon a Time... brings some of that feeling home for me. Bronson makes a little speech just before the final duel and calls Fonda one of "An Ancient Race" that modernity will soon come along and kill off; and this, the Howardian freedom of the frontier, resonated with me more deeply than dozens of John Wayne movies. The allegory of encroaching civilization is nicely tucked in the background of the picture.

So, you should see this movie. It's a little slow in spots, but the whole thing is top notch. I have the notion that Leone is subverting a lot of western tropes but I'm not quite well versed enough to pick them all out, or to gauge the impact. The close ups of Bronson and Fonda are so crisp, really makes modern cinema look like shit. Yeah, that Bronson. I'm not kidding.

Part of my interest in the film, other than prominently sitting on my Netflix home page, was last years remarkable Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. A few observations thereon without much context:

The West played in American theaters the summer of the Manson murders, 1969.

Henry Fonda is cast against type much like Jake Cahill and he makes a helluva villain. There are some shots of Fonda that remind me of Pitt in the more recent movie.

I probably dwell on the mythic a little much, but QTs alternate history take in Hollywood is both a commentary on our natural tendency to mythologize and broadly on the counter culture of the 1960s. The West similarly serves as an allegory for the end of "the wild west" (mythic landscape) and for the western as a movie genre, which itself is connected to the decline of the studio system.

The broader implication, which comes as no surprise, is that QT thinks Hollywood is over, much like the wild west. And he ain't wrong.

Anxiously awaiting Once Upon a Time on Youtube...
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2. Board Game: It from the Pit [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:14210]
Board Game: It from the Pit
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Stepbrothers (2008) Netflix
It’s been a while since I last saw Stepbrothers and wasn’t too keen to revisit it, but my wife wanted to give it a viewing. The movie still overstays its welcome and the second half is less about the improv moments and more about getting the story wrapped up. Regardless, it was enjoyable enough to watch again.

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Memento (2000) YouTube
Found Memento by way of r/fullmoviesonyoutube. Wow, this one’s heady and I went along for the enjoyable, but confusing ride much like Paul Auster’s City of Glass. Several reviews could definitely be in order. I was familiar with its premise, but wasn’t aware this is a Christopher Nolan film. In some ways Memento feels like Fight Club and the Usual Suspects while influencing a movie like The Machinist, but I was fascinated how similar scenes looked its score sounded to Mulholland Drive, released a year later. There’s so much blue in this film, almost to the point of heavy-handedness. (Blue Ruin also springs to mind)

Whatever happened to Guy Pearce? I recognize him from Prometheus, but that’s about it. His features remind me of that era’s Brad PItt and a Scott Glenn/Scott Weiland amalgamation. He’s cast well as a gaunt n' obsessed, impressionable character hopelessly attempting to take control of his situation.


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Dark Waters (1993) Prime Video
My first real dud of a watch in a long while. Dark Waters has a lot going for it that I should enjoy, but just doesn’t keep it interesting enough. Visuals and atmosphere are nice, but it’s dull.

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Quatermass and the Pit (1967) Dailymotion
Finally committed to viewing this Hammer film. The title alone is enticing and conjures all sorts of preconceptions. The film feels very elemental with characters gouging away and water-blasting at clay-like mud, encountering an unknown metal substance, London devastated by fire and windy gusts. Also the concept of quickly decomposing insectoid Martians and the stink emitted is effective. And regarding effects, Hammer gets much mileage from simple, practical effects.

Slow to gain momentum, but once the threat is full-blown, Quatermass and the Pit is entertaining. Feels like the film, Lifeforce and a bit of the board game, Eldritch Horror: Cities in Ruin. Interesting to note Quatermass isn't always the hero or character to solve a problem or understand the situation.



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3. Board Game: Nuns on the Run [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1628]
Board Game: Nuns on the Run
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Ms. 45 (1981) TUBI
In 1984, in an odd, but fun documentary horror film-essay called Terror in the Aisles, starring and narrated by Donald Pleasance, was where I first caught glimpses of Abel “Bad Lieutenant” Ferrara’s Ms. 45.

It was interesting to have finally seen what the actual film was all about. Exploitation and vigilante film Ms. 45 feels like Lipstick and Death Wish through Troma Entertainment’s sensibilities. Within the first fifteen minutes, Thana, the mute lead character is raped not once, but twice by different predators. Both are terrible events, but the second act is even more invasive and unnerving as far an individual being preyed upon at any given moment in their daily life.
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NYC is a filthy, disgusting place in many scenes (much like another 1981 film I watched last night - Night Hawks) that’s apparently near-abandoned when Ms. 45 doles out her vengeance. But that works to its sense of loneliness and isolation in such a populous place. Last month, I watched Alyce Kills and that film seems to have been inspired in some small amount by this film
the killing and dismemberment of a body in small apartment

The climax of Ms. 45 goes off the rails and harkens to DePalma’s Carrie finale.
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The speechless quality of Thana gives her character a silent n' visual presence much like Max Rockatansky in The Road Warrior. Her nun costume and 45 automatic may have inspired the likes of Ms. Tree and Ghost
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If you can stomach the subject matter, Ms. 45 may be worth a watch.
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4. Board Game: War on Terror [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:4603]
Board Game: War on Terror
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Nighthawks (1981)Netflix

Odd to find Nighthawks on Netflix. Perhaps it's due to Rutger Hauer's passing last year? This is one of many movies I'd watched while my sister worked her shift at Southland Cinemas in Hayward, CA. I'd caught it out of sequence, first seeing the second half and later returning to view it in its entirety to catch the full tale. Despite his evil character, Hauer was a cool cat as terrorist, Wulgar whose infamous status reminds me of Hans Gruber.

Nighthawks is not as strong as it felt those decades ago. It's decent, but there are scenes that feel like actual acted scenes and really take me out of the moment. Perhaps tighter editing or a stronger script would shore up those oddities. In contrast, there are some really choice moments, too: The disco confrontation was always epic and feels like it could have inspired the similar interaction of Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. And the ending is still a great sequence.

The hostage-taking plan on the Roosevelt Island tram is a poor choice and Hauer's Wulfgar seems desperate or of bruised ego to have taken such an exposed position. The situation's resolution feels very much like the ending of Dog Day Afternoon, too.

NYC is a trashy and disgusting as it is in Ms. 45, I don't remember Lindsay Wagner being in this film, but now understand why. She's hardly a blip among the Stallone-Hauer build-up and scenes.

There might be something to be said about characters' altering their appearances for their line of work: The film is bookended with Stallone in drag scenes while Hauer alters his features to continue his terrorist agenda near the middle of the tale. Billy Dee Williams' lacerated cheek could even hint at the cutting and alterations Wulfgar has had to endure in career. It's interesting to note that Wulfgar sort of resembles Stallone at the beginning of the film (Stallone's character has a sizeable kill count from his days in Vietnam). Also very interesting is that when Stallone and Williams' newly transferred characters are being trained in terrorist counter tactics, there's a guy directly behind Stone who looks strongly similar to Hauer himself. Who knows what was intended, but I found it interesting.

A decent cop film!
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5. Board Game: All About Baltimore [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: All About Baltimore
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Twelve O'Clock Boys (2014) Tubi

A documentary following over three years a young boy, Pug, who wants to join the Baltimore dirt bike and ATV group of riders known as The Twelve O'Clock Boys. Insight is provided into Pug's home and school life as well as showing the rides of the group he wants to join.

Baltimore's police are expected to enforce a no-chase policy and it's evident the colossal amount of effort and resources wasted on the chaos wheeling through the city in parks, oncoming traffic, and sidewalks.

There's a glorified quality to some of the rides presented in slow-motion and bathed in vibrant setting sunlight, all accompanied by an reflective, operatic score. The events at times feel suspiciously like reality television.

Eh.
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6. Board Game: Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:11614] [Average Rating:5.74 Unranked]
Board Game: Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom
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The Bad Batch (2017)

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In the near future, undesirables are deported to a free range prison in the wasteland desert of Texas to fend for themselves. A young woman finds herself on the wrong side of the fence and must fight to survive bodybuilders and "creatives" on la playa at the worst Burning Man ever.

This is a challenging and extremely subversive film. It has a 47/31 on rotten tomatoes and has been widely panned for uneven pacing, shallow characters and incoherent plot. My surmise is that the poor reception is because The Bad Batch falls into the dark alley between grindhouse and art house, and audiences (really, the critirati) have a hard time reconciling the cognitive dissonance generated by a pretty twisted exploration of blue and orange morality in the context of the film's lighthearted "Mad Max meets Pretty in Pink" tagline.

Despite this pithy pitch, I have a hard time thinking of anything quite like The Bad Batch. It most immediately reminds me of Southland Tales, the poorly received sophomore film from the director of indie darling Donnie Darko, in its ambition, psychedelic structure and disregard for genre conventions. It has a healthy dose of Holy Mountain too, but it is not quite as heroic as Jodorowski's opus. The setting is a bleaker take on the post-america of Judge's Idiocracy, but don't take this analogy too seriously. It does not remind me of Mad Max or Pretty in Pink, but I concede that these are probably the closest analogues for general audiences.

The script feels like a writer's workshop exercise, with each scene - and really almost every plot point - very deliberately subverting the tropes and expectations of film in general and action movies more specifically. Much of the aforementioned dissonance is born of these choices, as they make it difficult sort the heroes from the villains and, superficially, may make character motivations seem capricious. This is compounded by the protagonist, who is stupid, confused (sober and high), and amoral for most of the movie. I, On the contrary, found the motivations and character arcs well developed and interesting, and maybe even a little trite behind the screen of dark comedy, despite the unreliable characters.

Behind the hypnogogic character drama, Amirpour makes some light social commentary on American culture and politics. While much of this drifts into absurdism, I don't think that it necessarily misses the mark. There is plenty of subversion here as well, but I'll reserve any comments for the spoilerplate. A second viewing would help elucidate this part of the film but I'm not sure there's quite enough going on to merit another screening immediately.

The film is beautiful and playful with its set design. There is some pretty gruesome violence that grates against the generally calming palette. There is a distinct music video quality to the camera work that is accentuated by the sound track which is comprised entirely of pop and indie songs. These serve well for tone and contrast, but the desert drive mixtape aesthetic almost breaks the 4th wall in some key montages. And despite explicit and implicit psychedelia, they are all very tight pop numbers, which I found a little strange. A full score would elevate this movie to the next level. EDIT maybe by someone like Sinioa Caves who did the Black Rainbow soundtrack? Or Matmos.

I read and watched half a dozen reviews of the movie before typing this up, and it's amusing how baffled the pro-am movie critosphere is over this movie. It doesn't fit well into any of the critical schools but this is the only language they know and so they must crank the Procrustian wheel to their disappointment. The only positive review I saw on youtube was really just a plot synopsis.

The Bad Batch is on Netflix and I am very interested to hear other's thoughts on the movie. I put this on as background noise while I browsing poker chips I cannot afford but was sucked in as soon as the hacksaw came down.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
It's worth noting that there is very little explication given as to the state of affairs in this movie. It is presented as near future (or alternate history) of our time line, but other than the hyperbolic deportation policies of the USA there is nothing explicitly sci-fi or even post-apocalyptic about the world in The Bad Batch.

The movie grabbed me when they cut of Arlen's arm and leg in first 15 minutes. This is patched later with a prosthetic leg, but it is pretty radical for a blockbuster style movie like this to go full amputee exploitation so quick. Also sets the stakes pretty high right off the bat.

I was impressed at how dumb they made the protagonist. She is extremely inarticulate, which is unusual in general for movies but I think especially so when we have a strong female action hero (contrast hypercompetent Ripley). Her trip in the desert is the pinnacle of this conceit but I thought worked well. Her final lines are something like: "Maybe the things that happened before and are happening now happened so the things that are going to happen can happen." LOL. Inarticulate, but perfectly fitting with her character arc and personality.

One of the frequent critiques of the film is the aimless meandering, and while this could have been cut a little for time, it reflects very much Arlen's state of mind. Her arc to discover purpose and meaning isn't realized until the very end of the film. Although I have not seen any commentary to this point, her decision does not gel with contemporary feminist criticism, a point that should be addressed (not by me, obviously) in light of both the director and protagonist being ladies.

I imagine the inspiration for this movie was had while attending Burning Man, as a lot of the general aesthetic and depictions of drug use are clearly rooted in that ... culture? The hippie festival community is subversive in this sort of wasteland survival movie, but it also suggests that the people deported are not hard criminals but rather societal dregs, like that colony ship in Hitchhiker's Guide full of hair dressers. The chief antagonist was deported for illegal immigration ... from Cuba! I was so surprised I had to look it up and, indeed, the US reversed it's long standing amnesty for Cuban refugees under the Obama administration. So, I'm not sure if this is subversion, a joke or a jab - but it was strange. If we use this to date the film, Miami Man says he was 16 when he came to the use, no earlier than 2014, and is presumably over 30 in the movie so let's call it 203X or later.


Ran out of steam. There's a lot more to say about the Keanu and Momoa's father figures, cannibal economics and Giovanni Ribisi's 12 monkeys routine. Maybe I'll email those boys in Milwaukee about it.
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7. Board Game: UNO: The Dark Knight [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Board Game: UNO: The Dark Knight
Jesse Hickle
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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THE DARK KNIGHT - 2008
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I remember when I first heard who they had cast as the Joker in this one. Really? Heath Ledger? That guy from 10 Things I Hate About You? And The Patriot? And A Knight's Tale? That guy? I couldn't envision it. But like many other people, I accept that he's the best live action Joker we've had (I still maintain that Mark Hamill is THE best). And this movie - man, there's a lot of great stuff in here. From the identity crisis of Harvey Dent to the Joker's schemes to let everyone kill each other, it's an amazing movie.
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8. Board Game: I've Never... The Outrageous Game of Truth [Average Rating:5.02 Unranked]
Board Game: I've Never... The Outrageous Game of Truth
So crazy, funny, and loaded with numerous kernels of truths, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 - Netflix) is entertaining. Both Holy Grail and Life of Brain were on regular Showtime circulation back in my youth, but I never got too far in my attempts.

Watching last night I realized all the catch-phrases, references, and BGG avatars I've heard and seen over the decades. My late gaming buddy would flippantly remark, "Tis but a flesh wound" when one of my miniatures wounded one of his in our weekly Heroscape battles.

The picture quality of Holy Grail in the 70s on our dinky television had me assuming the film would be murky and of low quality, but that is not the case on Netflix on a big screen. The image is crisp and vibrant with the tale featuring beautiful locations. (John Boorman's Excalibur looks a lot like Holy Grail) As well, the quality of Terry Gilliam's animation is gorgeous. Flying Circus's animated segments always looked faded and blurred on our television in the 70s.

Rob Ager recently uploaded a perspective claiming the story is actually set in modern times. Something to consider!



In my sights:
Monty Python's Life of Brian
The Bad Batch
Death Wish

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9. Board Game: Sign of the Pagan [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:10536]
Board Game: Sign of the Pagan
My first exposure to a concept of a wicker man was volume 2 of Tapping the Vein, the comic anthology series adapting the works of Clive Barker. Barker's In the Hills, the Cities features small towns battling it out with their populace teetering and tied together as massive thin-men warriors
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Then reading the exploits of my favorite barbarian, Slaine, I discovered he and his dwarf companion, Okko cheated their wicker man fate. I was hooked on the concept of a Wicker Man.
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Annnnyway, 1973's The Wicker Man has been on my watchlist for years. Just last night I discovered it's on Netflix. Like Holy Grail, The Wicker Man's image quality is surprisingly very sharp and colorful.
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Like last months' Society, the film's main character is so far out of the loop and completely unaware of the situation developing around him. There is so much nudity, singing and dancing that the movie feels like a Pagan musical. Lots of creepy moments. Christopher Lee is excellent.

Recommended along with The Witch, Midsommar, Robin Redbreast, and Radiohead's Burn the Witch music video.


in my Pagan sights:
The Wicker Man remake (with Nick Cage!)
The Blood on Satan's Claw
Ken Russell's The Devils



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10. Board Game: Crocodile [Average Rating:4.71 Unranked]
Board Game: Crocodile
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Discovered Dark Age's thumbnail on Letterboxd and its description intrigued me. Sounded similar to The White Buffalo, Razorback, and possibly The Last Dinosaur. The movie is in full on YouTube. Dark Age is 'Jaws in Oz' with a good start, clunky middle, and interesting third act. Once the killings begin, the gigantic beast is to be hunted, but by movie's midway rather than hunt-to-kill, the protagonists (a ranger and his Aboriginal advisors) want to catch and release far from population.

Forgettable film with some good 'spirit animal' perspective. So much of the film takes directly from Jaws. This scene in particular feels straight-lifted from the scene of the shark attack on the boy on the raft.
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11. Board Game: Eliot Ness and the Untouchables [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Eliot Ness and the Untouchables
John Iverson
United States
Michigan
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Read an article titled why does Hollywood insist on remaking good foreign films and do a bad job at it. The article listed a few movies as examples. I noted down a few of interest that I had not heard of and just watched my first one.

The Intouchables about a well off widower who needs a care taker and a less well off chap who applies. Great acting and engaging story. Wife also quite enjoyed it. As FYI, its US remake was The Upside.
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The reason I like this Geek subscription is seeing movies I forgot to see or never heard of to start with. Someone last month wrote about The Gentlemen but mentioned a couple older movies by the director I hadn't seen (actually other than the UNCLE, which I didn't like, I had seen nothing by Ritchie). So anyway, watched Snatch. Liked the flow of the story and the characters. Less violent/graphic than it probably could have been but probably still too much for others. And language. But I still thought it was a good watch. Makes we want to pull out Diggstown again.

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12. Board Game: i See it! [Average Rating:2.33 Unranked]
Board Game: i See it!
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Century at Pacific Commons, Fremont, CA

We were invited along to the theater and all went in to The Invisible Man knowing nothing nor seeing any trailers and the approach made for a better viewing experience, IMO. A lot of cinema-fun, start to finish. There are several plot points that are odd, but don't derail too much from the entertaining story.

Effective and simple utilization of houses, empty walls, open doorways, and hallways
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The final hallway confrontation reminded me just a little bit of the final hallway scene in Altered States
This latest Invisible/Hollow Man iteration is a novel approach. A lot better than expected. Definitely has back door wide-open for sequels.
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13. Board Game: Lovecraft Letter [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:844]
Board Game: Lovecraft Letter
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The Color Out of Space (2019)

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A mysterious color from outer space visits New England, leaves only mysteries, takes only sanity.

This took a long time to win me over, almost half the movie, but I wound up liking it a lot. There is a distinctly Disney channel vibe at the beginning (a la Hocus Pocus) that does not jive well with the HPL source material or my vague (and unfounded) expectations of the film based on Mandy.

A pretty decent 15 minutes with jerks, as far as things go, and I think the happy atmosphere serves the narrative well as insanity unfurls. Because ... there are genuinely likable characters! Or maybe I was into witchy chicks in high school? Or ... both things can be true! In retrospect, this was pretty refreshing. The modern horror sensibility seems to be start tense and get tenser (VVitch, Midsomer, Bagul ... all of them) and this has led to an escalation of bleakness that has gotten a little tired. CooS starts out sunny and goes very, very dark - and this helps sell the horror elements for me. I wanted them to survive, even though I knew they couldn't. The consequence of the chipper mood is a second act that lists too sci-fi for its own good. Not to worry, this is all put to bed (or locked in the attic) by Act III. Another issue with the cheerful disposition and plucky cinematography is we get horror but not a lot dread. Probably a longer essay for that subject, but suffice to say we come to HP for the dread. He doesn't know what the horrors look like. There isn't enough time once we go full Cthulhu to catch up on the foreboding. They do try with Tommy Chong, but he just comes off as corny.

No jump scares. I thought they were going to just tease the horrors but we get full frontal on those puppies. I don't think the effects are practical but they look good for the most part.

This was good horror movie but not an especially good Lovecraft movie. While watching, I was thinking how much baggage there must be for people working in the genre, hard to separate the broad mythos from the original (and individual) texts. Stanley gives plenty of fan service but it is not gratuitous. I reread the short story immediately after watching last night and the movie follows most of the plot points faithfully, although the original takes place over years and the movie over a few days or weeks. It struck me that HPL likes to tell, not show, and that much of his horror (dread) is couched in this style. The movie, of course, must show us what happens, and this fundamentally spoils the Lovecraftian ethos. Contrast The Lighthouse from last year, which does a great job of "telling" us what happened without showing us anything definitive.

Great performance from Cage, although it seems like he walked all over the director. Nice to see a normal family that is not generic in a movie. I was pretty shocked at upset with some of the outcomes. There's a lot of superfluous character detail that was interesting to include: they mayor's beef with Nick, stoner-son's girlfriend, dad's doesn't understand you don't cook them, you shave them.

Healthy dose of Evil Dead. Little bit of The Shining, at least as much as Nick channels Jack. Having been spoiled with some pretty amazing horror in the last 12 months, I kept expecting Color to take it to the next level, to press on the fourth wall a little or bend the story a little, but they play it safe. Kudos to the creators for taking it all the way, and I am thankful they arn't trying to make this another "cinematic universe" At least not yet.

I always thought of the color as greenish.
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14. Board Game: Far from Home [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Far from Home
Jesse Hickle
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SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME - 2019
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This movie was a lot of fun. Spider-Man has always been a favorite of mine because of his human characteristics and his sense of humor, and that stuff was very much present in this movie.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Also, that mid-credits scene with JK Simmons returning as J. Jonah Jameson - I am so excited to see where they take THAT.
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15. Board Game: The Bloody Triangle: Drive on Dubno, 1941 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Bloody Triangle: Drive on Dubno, 1941
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Triangle (2009) Prime Video

Triangle's a puzzler with a looping, narrative seemingly aboard a sailboat that capsizes and the crew boards an empty cruise liner...repeat. Heavy leanings on the Sisyphus myth, triads, and nods to The Shining. Sounds as if the film has quite a following and many interpretations. Very similar to Memento, so fans of that film may enjoy Triangle
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16. Board Game: Peak Experience: The Climbing Game [Average Rating:5.67 Unranked]
Board Game: Peak Experience: The Climbing Game
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Free Solo (2018)

We've camped and hiked in Yosemite National Park for years. In 2004 and 2007, with my brother-in-law, we hike to and climbed up the backside of Half Dome* Around '07 or '08, I got wind of a young feller who free soloed the face of the granite monument. It seemed an impossible accomplishment and just a whispered blip of a feat. As the years went on, this climber became more known. The 2011 National Geographic article detailing yet another ascent of H.D. sealed the deal - this guy had a name and face.
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Finally got a chance to see this documentary of Honnold free-soloing El Capitan, Yosemite's other well-known granite icon. The film is of a standard documentary and the big payoff is the final ascent of the El Cap. The feat is simply crazy-unreal and I consider myself fortunate to have this legend and his accomplishments happen during my lifetime. Honnold has set the free solo bar so high with this climb that I don't know if it can ever be matched or topped.

The film follows his route and highlights the trickiest portions. My hands and feet were sweating with nervousness. Not sure how I would have been experiencing the film in the theater. Pretty good docu, overall.

* Half Dome in 2007
 
 

Before ascending and coming down, carefully.
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17. Board Game: Monopoly: McDonald's Happy Meal [Average Rating:2.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Monopoly: McDonald's Happy Meal
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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McMILLIONS

This is an HBO documentary about how from 1989 to 2001, there were zero legitimate big-money winners from McDonald's popular Monopoly game. Pretty interesting, following how the FBI unraveled the case and how the cheating was actually done. Also, strip clubs with preachers make an appearance.

Currently on HBO. Movie? Series? Kinda both, though it would be a long single-sitting movie...
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18. Board Game: The Incredibles Game [Average Rating:4.10 Unranked]
Board Game: The Incredibles Game
Jesse Hickle
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Colorado Springs
Colorado
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THE INCREDIBLES - 2004
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Even all these years later, this is my favorite superhero movie ever, and my favorite Pixar movie. What makes this so special is the whole family dynamic, and how it shows the ups and downs in that relationship. It's not just an action flick (though it has plenty of that), there's real heart there. It also is making me rethink my recent watch of Spider-Man: Far from Home, where Mysterio had much the same motivation as Syndrome.
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19. Board Game: Donnerwetter [Average Rating:6.74 Unranked]
Board Game: Donnerwetter
Rebodaxa Carnivatana
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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

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This movie is real dumb but it makes me laugh. There is some pretty clever gags about the food and some very dry sarcasm that works ok. The actual character arcs are pretty played out. Much better than the book, which is helle boring.

DJ Squirmbles was moderately engaged, but was so inspired by then invention that he spent most of the movie assembling some kind of machine out of toys and calculators.
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20. Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: Burrower XXL Enemy [Average Rating:8.21 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: Burrower XXL Enemy
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The Burrowers (2008) Tubi
I was sure The Burrowers would be Tremors in the old west. Luckily it wasn't anything like it and we came away quite impressed. The Burrowers is more in step with Bone Tomahawk and feels as if it might have influenced Zahler's horror western seven years later.

The 'burrowers' are a bit of a letdown as they don't much look like subterranean creatures. They have the hind legs of a Jerusalem Cricket and I think the potato bug may have been the primary point of reference:
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but the rest of their appearance resembles a mutated infant (I was sure the plot would reveal my suspicions, but sadly it's left ambiguous) who struggles to remain mobile. The creature effects look practical and similar to the monster from 1982's Xtro while other moments, they're obviously low-grade CGI.
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Xtro

I was very impressed with The Burrowers and recommend it as decent offering in the meager horror-western genre. Another recommend as it stars Clancy Brown.
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21. Board Game: Sexy Red Flags: A Seductive Expansion to Red Flags [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked]
Board Game: Sexy Red Flags: A Seductive Expansion to Red Flags
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Belladonna of Sadness (1973) YouTube

Last month, the thumbnail for Belladonna of Sadness showed up on Letterboxd and having never heard of it before, I was curious to see it. Yesterday, someone uploaded it to YouTube. I began watching positive I would bail and I almost did. The story's events are sadistic and misogynistic and get right into it much like Ms. 45. This is an adult, erotic fairy tale apparently based on Jules Michelet's Satanism and Witchcraft. I stuck with Belladonna in large to part to the artwork and soundtrack.

The art is continually inventive and visually striking throughout. There are expansive, horizontal almost-murals (like the standard backgrounds of typical movie cartoon classics) the camera pans across, psychedelic Yellow Submarine moments when Jeanne 'unites' with Satan, stark black and white sequences during the plague sequence, and many very minimally drawn, half-colored pieces with nice but grave-sounding Japanese narration detailing the moment.

In elementary school I felt we students were presented with a high appreciation and regard for children's books authors and artists. It could have been the school environment or an effort by publishers and Scholastic to sell more books. People like Tomie DePaola, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Ezra Jack Keats, Doctor Seuss Trina Schart Hyman were revered by the teachers and me, too. I see a huge influence of these artists in Belladonna as well as the style of Peter Max and The Yellow Submarine movie. So The film definitely gets my props for hailing back to those years of book illustrations.

These peasants below strongly resemble the work of Tomie Depaola
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And much of the art looks a lot like Trina Schart Hyman's beautiful illustrations
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The soundtrack is quite nice. My favorite moments have a sort of Japanese drum or percussive quality. And the score knows when to be quiet, too. There's a pivotal moment near the end that goes completely silent and it works well. Visually and sonically incredible, but this is an adult, erotic cartoon, so proceed with discretion!
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22. Board Game: Kill Them All [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Kill Them All
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Annihilation (2017)

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Dude who wrote Dredd remakes Stalker and it's not as boring but way less interesting, "tightrope-walking the fine line between open-ended, mind-expanding mystery and lethargic, pretentious twaddle*"

Annihilation came up a few times in conversations and reviews about The Color Our Of Space as another take on the Lovecraftian premise. Remarkable that two such different movies were born of the same seed and grow in generally the same direction.

This movie did not win me over. Not to say that I hated it or anything, I think there's some pretty neat stuff going on. But Annihilation gave me no feels (except contempt) and no new ideas (extremely derivative and poorly constructed). I found the technobabble explanations of the shimmer's effect trite and unbelievable, would have been better left unsaid. They do no science to the bubble despite all being scientists. Not even a hypothesis. Oh! that's not true! h0 something killed them h1 they killed each other. High five, public schools!

Annihilation does not spare us the jerks. What an unfun collection of mopers. I was most concerned that they let the suicide join the armed mission in the zone when they know it has significant psychological effects on humans. This is an instance of the bleakness to tension I mentioned in The Color's write up. It's so gritty it becomes unbelievable. Like that Heinlein line "we laugh because it hurts..."

I know I am supposed to identify with Queen Amadala, but I have nothing for the unfaithful veteran biology pHd who talks down to her 400 level students. The other two dimensional characters likewise do nothing for me. I do sort of empathize with the Alzabo. I would've eaten the dutch girl first, too.

One of the critical phrases on Garland's vision board for this movie is "we don't all suicide but we all self destruct," which I admit, is pretty interesting in notion. But we don't see self destruction. And we hardly see redemption (its there but talk about deus ex machina duder). We see the defeated succumb to failure. That sounds meaner than I intended. Our heroes are set up to fail, and they fail through no fault of their own, I suppose to make some point about life cycles and cell cycles. I'll recommend Tree of Life here.

Final bitchslap is for the extreme influence of Video Games. The entire final act is lifted whole cloth from A Link Between Worlds. The whole thing has a very Half-Life, Resident Evil FPS vibe that has become pretty common in modern sci fi films. isuppose this is natural in light of how pervasive VGs have been for Gen X, Y & Z but it usually pulls me out of the movie. In Annihilation, the final fight reminds me of those Zelda puzzles where the bad guy mirrors your moves and you got to get him to stand on the switch in the corner so you can run out the door.

I thought it was a very pretty film and I enjoyed the stuff that was most like Stalker. The cancer motif was interesting but I'm afraid it is very difficult to dissociate the pain and grief of the disease from the very interesting biological process at work. I liked the weird alien impregnating the human race with clones but it so derivative as to be cliche now. I was disappointed they didn't allow the weirdness to just be weird.

This movie really gets the showing and telling mixed up, so much so that it feels like an unfinished draft. While I like the admission of ignorance at the end of the film, I don't think its true. Garland has a distinct idea about what happened in the zone and its not that tough to piece together. It's like a single chapter out of a Larry Niven book. There some interesting stuff here but this was all thought up 30+ years ago.

Diagnosis - Stage Four. Begin palliative care.

EDIT removed like 8 instances of the word pretty. Pretty sure I go them all.

*lifted wholecloth from The Economist via Wikipedia.
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23. Board Game: Boat Survival [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Boat Survival
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The Boat (2018) Prime Video
The Boat is another decent adrift-at-sea movie though I'm at a loss to compare it to anything else - perhaps Duel or The Car? The boat is Aeolus, the same Greek myth name used for the sailboat in Triangle. I sat up wondering if The Boat was a sequel to that film, but it's not.
(Though on Wiki, it is interesting to note that there is a triad of Aeolus characters in Greek mythology)

There might be an obsessed stalker/lover quality to this film's Aeolus. The character who boards her apparently has done nothing wrong to deserve the treatment he eventually receives. The story is bare-bones simple and the cast is just one - er, two.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
bloody fingerprints and knife suggest the vessel may be haunted and the man is the murderer. He's set free at the end, but the boat is still out there, waiting. Perhaps it represents the man's guilty conscious. Also interesting there's a cave featured at the beginning and end that could represent where Aeolus stores his violent winds when not unleashing them on the world.

The film feels like an overly long episode of The Twilight Zone. I got a little antsy toward the end, but overall my youngest son and I enjoy The Boat. Edit: forgot to mention the soundtrack sounds similar compositions from Under the Skin and It Follows. For what it's worth, here's my Letterboxd list of Train movies. I want to create a Sailboat list at some point, so suggestions for both are appreciated.
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24. Board Game: NOBODY [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Cowboys: The Way of the Gun
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My Name is Nobody (1973) Prime Video

Terence Hill and Peter Fonda buddy-it-up and take on one hundred fifty thundering bandits on horseback, accompanied to Morricone's variation of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie in this comedy-western.

Hill is a new actor to me who, at times reminds me of Christopher Lambert with piercing blue eyes. Hill plays the role of Nobody, an up-and-coming gunfighter who greatly admires Fonda's Jack Beauregard, a veteran six-shooting duelist (but he's still Frank to me). At a moment's notice, Nobody can list off Beauregard's victories, his (dead)adversaries, and the date of the shootouts. It takes most of this lengthy movie for Beauregard to come around to buddy up with Nobody as he is a downright goofy and persistent, but deadly-with-a-gun) admirer
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Morricone's music is sill riffing Once Upon a Time in the West variation. It's evident with traces of the that film's Main Theme and As a Judgement permeates Nobody's soundtrack (I think it's even the same town from OUaTitW must be utilized in this film). Nobody's theme song is goofy, much like his personality. There's even a composition for Beauregard that is basically, I Did it My Way (again, we think of Frank - both of them: Sinatra and the villain in OUaTitW).

Beautiful and sometimes green locales, several crane shots, tons of uses of mirrors, an extended sequence at a carnival, and campy but effective sound effects (the opening shaving scene!) make My Name is Nobody an epic, funny western. There is some social commentary too - the pie-throwing scene at the carnival is harsh, but Nobody does has a satisfying response that is a cathartic moment.
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Unlike Once Upon a Time, the book hasn't yet closed on the gunfighter persona and legend, but it's getting there and in the making - The finale is both memorable, funny, and heartfelt for Hill and Fonda's characters. There's even a grave nod to Sam Peckinpah and explosive slow-mo sequences.

An excellent, novel, and beautifully-shot western.
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25. Board Game: Hangtown [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:7791]
Board Game: Hangtown
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Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968) YouTube

Nobody's Terence Hill lead me to watch the second film in the Django series. Hill replaced Franco Nero, I guess. Hill still reminds me of Christopher Lambert and maybe Sam O'neill. These Django movies sure love a muddy western town and I think it's the same location from the first film.

It's not surprising how influential The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly was to further Italian westerns and there are several elements echoed in Django. One is a hanging scam that is so preposterous, it's laughable in an already silly genre. Then there's a graveyard showdown that's has a visual style like Leone's.

The first film had an excellent coffin-and-surprise scene and I wondered why this Django didn't have carry the tradition. But patience in this tedious film pays off with an excellent callback. It was all worthwhile enough for that ending!

Oh trivia moment: Django, Prepare a Coffin is the sample source for Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. (and seriously is one of the composer's last name really Reverberi?


Decent enough if just to see that ending and hear the music.
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