Movies You Watched in September 2020
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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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: Bill & Ted's Excellent Boardgame [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:10243]
Board Game: Bill & Ted's Excellent Boardgame
Trey Chambers
United States
Houston
Texas
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Saw B&T 3. It was okay. Definitely not bad. Not particularly good.

The problem was the story structure. They had 3 separate plots. The first movie only had one (pass the history exam) so they could focus on comedy. This one crams so much plot in it loses that simplicity.
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2. Board Game: Mmm! [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:4371]
Board Game: Mmm!
Joakim Schön
Sweden
Alingsås
Sverige
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The Cat Returns

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Good movie from Studio Ghibli. It's not up there with other Ghibli movies, but it has a nice story and some fine characters. The story is quite simple. But I think they got it together good in the end.
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3. Board Game: Tides of Time [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1081]
Board Game: Tides of Time
Joakim Schön
Sweden
Alingsås
Sverige
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The Decelerators

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Sci-fi. A group of friends are inventing a machine that slows down time. Nice camera work, settings and idea. Didn't like the over voices. Would have been better without them.
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4. Board Game: The Hunt for Red October [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:8153]
Board Game: The Hunt for Red October
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Was channel surfing free-to-air and The Hunt for Red October was on. I had forgotten how much I liked that movie, sure it may not be a great movie, but it ticks many boxes, has some great people in it and is one of the best examples of Sean Connery refusing to even think about doing a character's accent! The biggest minus is that it is pretty much an entirely male cast which yes you can explain away due to most of it being set on Russian and US navy vessels in the 1980s.

Showing how old it is, I remember thinking that Sam Neil now looks pretty much like Sean Connery did when they were filming The Hunt for Red October cool
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5. Board Game: Kiki & Bun-Bun [Average Rating:5.60 Unranked]
Board Game: Kiki & Bun-Bun
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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New to Me

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Kiki’s Delivery Service
(1989) =

Kiki’s Delivery Service feels like one of those movies that they would show us in elementary school when it was raining and we couldn’t go outside for recess. It’s cute, and certainly feels like it will appeal to children, but doesn’t have much that interests me as a middle-aged man. There is a paper-thin story in this movie, and it doesn’t follow much of a narrative path. A lot of the movie feels episodic, and I wonder if Miyazaki considered making this a children’s TV series. Each little adventure could be its own episode, since they don’t flow like a film script would normally. The world created in Kiki’s Delivery Service is similar to our own, but here we see that the existence of witches is widely known, and not considered fantastical to them.

It is a little odd that, at such a young age, this character is allowed to go fend for herself in a big city, but this isn’t the kind of film where there are antagonists looking to hurt the young girl. In this magical world, pretty much everyone is nice and tries to help, with the exception of some bratty kids. Kiki meets a lot of friends along the way, and it seems that there’s no real conflict in the film at all. Then out of nowhere, for no apparent reason Kiki hits a roadblock. I didn’t quite understand the purpose of this part of the film, other than manufacturing drama for the final scene. While all I’ve said might sound overly mean-spirited, I didn’t have any animosity towards Kiki’s Delivery Service. The word that kept coming to mind was “cute.” For the right audience (particularly young kids) I could see this being a charming little story, I’m just not the right audience.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Loses to About Elly
Wins against Jumanji
Wins against Piranha
Loses to RoboCop
Wins against Life of Pi
Loses to Walkabout
Loses to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Wins against In Dreams
Loses to Watchmen
Loses to Blow Out

Kiki’s Delivery Service ranked 1416 out of 2413 or 41%
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6. Board Game: Spy vs Spy [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:15749]
Board Game: Spy vs Spy
Dave Rubin
United States
Trenton
New Jersey
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The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)



Streamed on Prime

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(After a period of months streaming only TV series, I'm back!)

British film based on the John le Carré novel; I've never read the book, but the movie has a powerful aura of verisimilitude, so I imagine that it is a fairly faithful adaptation. Director Martin Ritt has produced a taught, understated thriller -- there is very little physical action, but the double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses (or the threat thereof) keeps the viewer desperately involved and thinking. The plot is complex, but not unfathomable. It's a dirty, dirty game, and you can be sure any character that can be read by the viewer can also be read by their antagonists. Doom! Doom! The run time of about two hours is one of incessant dread.

The actors, particularly Richard Burton as ex-MI6 Berlin Station Chief Alec Lamaes, are superb. The b&w cinematography is spectacularly depressing, presumably by choice -- London and Berlin look utterly unappealing.

TRIVIATUM: Hey, that's Juror #11 (George Voskovec) from 12 Angry Men as the defense "counsel" in the East German star chamber!
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7. Board Game: Spiral [Average Rating:8.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Spiral
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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The Spiral Staircase
(1945) =

The Spiral Staircase is an old-fashioned murder mystery. All the residents of a household are locked together during a storm, and we are told that one of them is probably a serial killer. Among the people that live there is a mute girl who has been told she might be the next victim. Naturally, there are some complications for her because she struggles to communicate with others. I appreciate the atmosphere of this film, and the overall grim tone of the story. I also love the fact that they take time to establish the geography of the house, so that we have a general idea where things are, and when someone might be trapped with nowhere to run. It’s a dark and mysterious place, and all the characters who live there are also suspicious. This never feels like a place that would be seen as safe, and it didn’t surprise me when the police implied that there was a killer who lived there.

While I always relish a good murder mystery, I did feel that The Spiral Staircase was missing a little something to make it work as well as others in the genre. There are characters who behave illogically, and it stands out even more when they’ve been warned. Our heroine has been told more than once that she should get away, and stay away, but she continues to drag her feet rather than leaving with the doctor who wants to save her. But the bigger flaw in this mystery is that there aren’t enough suspects. The house already has a limited number of residents, and there are many that you can eliminate as viable options within moments of meeting them. When they get closer to the reveal there are only 2 possible killers, and anyone who’s seen a film before can probably figure it out. I still think The Spiral Staircase is a solid movie because of the way the story was presented, plus there’s a nice little surprise at the end, it was merely the mystery itself that let me down a little.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against Limitless
Loses to The Hunt
Loses to Clear and Present Danger
Wins against Now You See Me
Loses to Meet the Robinsons
Wins against Pirate Radio
Wins against Blazing Saddles
Loses to Detroit
Loses to The Blind Side
Wins against The Long Good Friday
Loses to Duel

The Spiral Staircase ranked 991 out of 2414 or 59%
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8. Video Game: Little Things [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Video Game: Little Things
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Minneapolis
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle
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I'm Thinking of Ending Things

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I saw the trailer for this and got interested as I quite enjoyed other films by Mr. Kaufman. I mentioned it to a friend and she lent me the novel. I was previously unaware of this novel. I read it and it was certainly engaging. My curiosity was engaged about how such a story would be translated to the screen. Certainly the book could be very nearly adapted scene by scene as the book takes place over the time period of a car drive, a dinner another car drive and the finale. But the subject matter of the finale would make such a literal interpretation difficult.

Kaufman's choice was to soften the edges of the story by removing the more menacing overtones. And to shroud the finale from the viewer. Leaving it less graphic and more open to interpretation.

I found the film far more approachable than the work of Mr. Reid. And certainly less jarring. I enjoyed the film. I liked the stylistic choices made. I felt like this was a film that dealt well with the subjects of aging, daydreams, memory and loneliness.
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9. Board Game: Don't Tickle Elmo [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Don't Tickle Elmo
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Tickled
(2016) =

Tickled began with a simple idea. Some film-makers were exploring a fun story about the world of competitive tickling after seeing a couple videos on the internet. But this documentary is only partially about people being put in restraints and tickled until they can hardly stand it. The rabbit hole that these film-makers get sucked down is surprisingly deep, and absolutely thrilling. Faced with a great deal of opposition, it feels like every scene in Tickled requires the documentary team to take a risk. There are action movies that do less to excite me than this movie did by simply approaching some men to ask a few questions. Who would have thought that there was so much to learn about such a silly topic? The documentary team does some research, and helps fill in as many of the gaps in the story as possible. I was impressed by the fact that they were able to find some people to come forward with the truth, and also that they never shied away from confronting those involved.

I think it’s important to point out that all the videos that are shown in this film involve fully-clothed people (with the exception of some guys who have their shirts off.) While it might be a fetish for some, there’s nothing overtly sexual in the content we are shown. That’s what makes the entire story so fascinating, because it feels like a relatively harmless series of videos that may titillate someone, but shouldn’t scandalize all the people involved. Yet there’s a cover-up going on, and the joy of this documentary is getting to the bottom of it all. I was downright riveted by all the things we learned as this movie progressed, and I was desperate for more. In fact, I fear that’s the one area where Tickled felt a bit lacking. The pay-off at the end felt like we had a few answers but no solutions. I understand it’s not the role of documentarians to fix the world’s problems, but I felt the film left me on an unsatisfactory cliffhanger. Tickled is still an excellent story, and it delivers more than you’d expect.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against About Elly
Wins against The Hunt
Loses to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Loses to Compulsion
Loses to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Loses to To Have and Have Not
Loses to The Amazing Spider-Man
Loses to Dumb and Dumber
Wins against Godzilla
Wins against Killer Elite
Loses to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Tickled ranked 594 out of 2415 or 75%
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10. Board Game: Lords of the Spanish Main [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:9660]
Board Game: Lords of the Spanish Main
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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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Pirates variously seek love, purpose and life affirming self actualization by eschewing treasure.

I wouldn't go as far as to say I have nostalgia for this movie (or the franchise), but watching this at the end of the No Blockbuster Summer does evoke a certain wistfulness for the days of haute médias d'entreprised. Certainly, it deserves a gold star for imaginative use of the source material. This is probably the first viewing in ten years or so.

Anyway: well constructed, scripted, scored and acted. Great costumes, choreography, and special effects. Almost too slick. Maybe a little over reliant on the switcharoo as a plot device, but the gags hold and serve to reinforce the theme. Depp saves the movie from being a soulless corporate feedbag (barely), ironic since I usually mark Pirates as the beginning of the end for his serious acting career. Rush is perhaps an even better casting choice, although Barbossa is a little more stock than Sparrow. The other leads are fine but you could switch out any number of attractive young persons and get the same result.

Such a great movie, unfortunately I feel like the rest of the franchise really drags it down (number two's ok?). We don't really get the Han & Luke growth for Legolas & Crybaby, and Sparrow devolves quickly to caricature. Even in The Black Pearl, I don't find a lot to bring me back - a little too much spectacle and all the mystery is vaporized in order to appeal to general audiences.

Looking forward to the reboot with Tilda Swinton as Jack.
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11. Board Game: Zooscape [Average Rating:5.77 Overall Rank:10780]
Board Game: Zooscape
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Gretel and Hansel (2020)

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Fairly straight take on the Grimm fairy tale with stunning visuals and cinematography.

A New Release? Hot dog! This comes to me courtesy of the RLM dudes, and it was a solid recommendation. Although a very different movie, it reminds me most of Argento's Suspiria, mostly for the use of color and general atmospherics, but there might be even more there. Broadly, there's a lot of overlap with The VVitch, but the particulars don't lead me to much direct comparison.

Directed by Oz Perkins, who made the enjoyable, but confusing (to me), Blackcoat's Daughter, G&H does not stray far from the traditional story. There is some embellishment of the characters and establish a plausible motivation for the witch, who is at least as interested in seducing Gretchen to become her apprentice as she is in eating the kids. The appeal here is movie making, not the storytelling.

Like The Blackcoat's Daughter, there is something missing in G&H, although it is not as easy to describe. It would be trivial to make Gretel and Hansel a PG13 movie, and the spooky atmosphere make it an almost perfect family Halloween movie, but there are a few scenes that are too explicit (allusion to rape and some baby eating) to gloss over with even younger teens. The concept of Gretchen entering adulthood is a great but comes off a little trite towards the end.

Two minor gripes: there is a unecessary mushroom trip, apparently for time?. This worked great in Midsommor but feels forced here. More alarmingly, there is some CGI blood that looks really bad and they should've just left it out - because otherwise the movie is shot flawlessly.

Verdict: 100% worth a watch for fans of the genre, unlikely to be anyone's favorite, a very solid entry for witch based horror. I will make an effort to see it again before candy time, maybe with a director's cut of Midsommer.
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12. Board Game: Jagd der Vampire [Average Rating:5.41 Overall Rank:17073]
Board Game: Jagd der Vampire
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John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)

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State of the art vampire hunters working for the Catholic Church swear a lot more than I'd expect. They also fight a lot of vampires.

It is difficult to not see this as a weird reverse homage to Dusk Til Dawn (1996), which, at least spiritually, owes a lot to the Master of Horror. This is clearly the inferior movie in every way, but it's got a lot of cheerworthy moments and is good fun if you know what you're getting into.

The movie was not cast well. James Woods is the lead and talks way too fast. Apparently a stylistic choice that doesn't play well. I feel like Dennis Leary would have served better in the roll as the shtick reminds me of his 90s standup. There is A LOT of tough guy talk and a long running gag about the priest getting sexually aroused every time Woods beats him up, which is often. Laura Palmer gets a lot of silent screen time as a PG hooker in a poorly explained romance with Daniel Baldwin and the Big Bad is barely a placeholder. I would have cast The Kurgan instead.

The stop the end of the world plot is fairly typical Carpenter, as is the overuse of montage. Lots and lots of boring action scenes. This is the dumbest thing I've finished in a while and it mostly made me want to watch some top shelf JC. This was the biggest financial success of Carpenter's career.
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13. Board Game: Rocky Road à la Mode [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2844]
Board Game: Rocky Road à la Mode
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The Road (2009)

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The Walking Dead without any zombies.

I have deliberately avoided this movie for over ten years now because it seemed too bleak for my tastes. Having now watched it, I can confirm that this movie is too bleak for my tastes and I found it fairly disturbing.

I almost shut it off thirty minutes in. I stood up when Rick Grimes pointed his revolver at Carl's head to kill him before the cannibals could get him, but realized the movie had elicited a strong emotional reaction and that was probably worth something, so I sat back down. I reluctantly watched the rest, although I did fast forward through about twenty minutes towards the end.

I have not read the book, but I read about the book after seeing the movie. I don't care much for McCarthy. His prose is wonderful but his subject matter drifts from boring to slightly offensive (for me, obviously), and the former has not proven enough to help me ignore the latter.

The Road is a emotionally powerful movie, although it cheats a little to get there. It reminds me most of Waiting for Godot (or maybe Endgame?) in the absurd hopelessness it delivers. The hopelessness is stark and self explanatory, but the absurdity is where we pick the bones. Without digging too deep, the scenario required to deliver the pathos requires a heroic suspension of disbelief (I have read that this is considered science fiction, which itself is absurd). This is fine in an episode of The Twilight Zone, but we really need a longer run time to squeeze the pity out of such a premise. Except the longer it goes the less plausible the set up seems. There's no need to pick all this to pieces, as it is clearly not the intent of the filmmakers, but I think the same effect could be had with a two hour reel of sad, crying faces.

The emotional manipulation is not as severe as Lars Von Trier, but it is also not trying as hard to make a point. I appreciate that it provides a vehicle for self-reflection, but these are the sorts of questions that anyone with children will struggle over, and ignoring the joy that family brings is unnatural.

The Road's emptiness invites the viewer to fill up the space on their own, but I don't find I need the vessel - perhaps because I am lucky to have people to talk about these things with in my life.

I was going to ruminate on who the intended audience is, but I read somewhere McCarthy wrote it for his son, which makes the movie even more desolate for me.

There's a great movie called Wisconsin Death Trip that I feel like did for me what this movie want to do, but with more to chew on. It's been a long time since I've seen it, and I'm not much inclined to any more bleakness for a while.
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14. Board Game: Duck Duck Goose [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Board Game: Duck Duck Goose
Dave Rubin
United States
Trenton
New Jersey
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Duck, You Sucker! (1971)



Streamed on Prime

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Final Sergio Leone western, a 2.5+ hour buddy movie. Many alternate titles, some used (e.g. A Fistful of Dynamite), some not (e.g. Once Upon a Time in Mexico).

Strengths:

* The principal actors, both Americans, one playing a Mexican (Rod Steiger), one playing an Irishman (James Coburn), both doing a fine job with their assumed accents.

* Morricone soundtrack is atmospheric, though the vocalizations reminded me of the kind of stuff you hear in 70s horror.

* Leone’s pacing is good, much better than in, e.g., Once Upon a Time in the West.

Weaknesses:

* Writing is, for significant stretches, pedestrian.

* Teeth. They’re distractingly, brilliantly white. What does it mean?!

What Couldn’t Be Included Today:

* Rape as an act of Social Justice
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15. Board Game: Mermaid Rain [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:5710]
Board Game: Mermaid Rain
Rebodaxa Carnivatana
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The Little Mermaid (1989)

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A Tail as old as time. Wait...

Maybe the perfect Disney movie. It's short, all the songs are hits, and the messaging is pretty positive. But most of all the songs, which are also short, catchy and easy to sing along to. The animation lacks the polish of its descendants in the 90s but is perfectly serviceable. The set piece numbers are a lot of fun.
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16. Board Game: Patton Goes to War [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:12244]
Board Game: Patton Goes to War
David H
United Kingdom
West London
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Patton (1970) George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young - Watched on DVD - New to Me

I hadn't seen this before but the opening speech in front of a giant Stars and Stripes is iconic and every time I see a picture of it I remind myself I actually need to see the whole film, so I finally did. I'm not sure if it's because I associate George C. Scott with 'Dr Strange Love' but there was a level of manic dark humour underpinning his performance as Patton and it's almost comedic at times. The battle scenes are rather poorly staged, filmed from a distance and are more reminiscent of a Napoleonic era battle which may have been intentional as Patton viewed himself as a great general reborn or maybe because their budget only allowed them to paint up American tanks as German Panzers, who knows.

6/10

True History of the Kelly Gang (2019) George MacKay, Charlie Hunnam, Nicholas Hoult - Watched on DVD - New to Me

An experimental take on the myth of Ned Kelly. There's not much history here and that's the point, it builds up its own loose and anarchic version of the legend. Sadly a lot of it doesn't really work and it jumps about a bit too much in the second act. Although there's an incredibly forceful performance by George MacKay who deserved a better film.

5/10

Manhattan (1979) Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway - Watched on DVD

It had been a while since I had seen this and it still holds a certain magic. There's a real love of New York here and the score is wonderful, it has the same allure as 'Midnight in Paris' although there are parts such as his relationship with a 17 year old that I viewed differently this time around.

7/10
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17. Board Game: Robert at Bannockburn: The Battle of Bannockburn, 1314 [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:13699]
Board Game: Robert at Bannockburn: The Battle of Bannockburn, 1314
"L'état, c'est moi."
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Braveheart (1995)


I’ve seen this film a bunch of times, but it had easily been a decade since I’d seen it last.

It hasn’t aged well IMO. The historical inaccuracies pile up to the point that they collapse under their own weight.

Sophie Marceau and Patrick MCGoohan are fabulous. My wife said she simply imagined the whole thing in Westeros.
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18. Board Game: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? [Average Rating:4.52 Unranked]
Board Game: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
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Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)


To the shock of my friends, I had never seen this film before. The repertory cinema around the corner from my house had a showing of it last night, and so we got some socially distanced tickets and went.

Before going to see it, I read about the animation, and that the entire thing was done old-school. Hand-drawn cells, overlays, splicing, the sequin dress. As a piece of amazing cinematic history, this film really delivers. I can see why it was added to the list of significant films in the Library of Congress.

For someone who grew up with Saturday morning cartoons, this film had an Easter egg like every 15 seconds. I really enjoyed it from that perspective.

From a storyline and plot perspective, it was only ok. The shouty dialogue got annoying after a while. It was fabulous to see Christopher Lloyd, and Bob Hoskins in their relative prime.
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19. Board Game: Alien vs Predator: The Hunt Begins [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:3819] [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
Board Game: Alien vs Predator: The Hunt Begins
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The Predator (2018)


The original Predator movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger was most excellent. The sequel was likewise excellent.

Ever since then, anything with the name Predator, or even worse Predator versus Aliens, has been pretty damn lacklustre.

This movie is by the numbers, with every stupid stereotype and predictable plot line. What saves it from being complete trash is the casting is actually quite good. No A-listers, but this isn’t the castoffs from central casting.
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20. RPG Item: The Iron Giant [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: The Iron Giant
Rebodaxa Carnivatana
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The Iron Giant (1999)

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ET but the alien is a WMD.

I never really liked this movie, but I seem compelled to routinely give it another chance. And it's got a lot going for it, to be sure. Great characters, charming attention to detail, an excellent cast, novel plotting (although the scenes and story are a little canned), and wonderful hand drawn(ish) animation. The existentialist theme of self determination is sophisticated for a kids' movie, although it would be better if the kid has a similar arc. I deeply dislike the character design, which is probably the most immediate reason for my ambivalence towards the movie. But I can see the appeal, and I grant that its tough to distinguish a style that matches but does not mimic Disney.

This is easy enough to overlook, but The Iron Giant has this unbearable smugness that I find difficult to excuse. This is unfortunately born of the central premise, which would humanize a world ending super weapon through the innocence of a child, and ridicule the understandable panic that such a visitor would naturally arouse. The characterization of the military is gross and clearly deliberate, especially irritating considering these would be combat veterans of the Korean War and WWII. This is ostensibly in service of the antiwar/weapon messaging, but the same point could easily be delivered with respect for the audience's intelligence. Perhaps not that surprising for the guy who's claim to fame is ripping off The Fantastic Four.

Verdict: The giant kills dozens of soldiers that apparently posed no threat (it survives an atomic blast), but at least he learned the power of love. See ゴジラ (1954) for a more nuanced take on the evils of the atomic bomb.
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21. Board Game: Scotland the Brave II [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
Board Game: Scotland the Brave II
Jesse Hickle
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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BRAVE - 2012


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My Pixar watching project has reached Brave, Pixar's first (and only) princess movie. It shunned a lot of the Disney princess tropes, especially the one where the princess finds her true love and lives happily ever after. I like Merida a lot as a character, and the movie was gorgeous. The story was really only so-so, and it was really weird to see that many naked butts in a Disney movie.
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22. Board Game: Possession [Average Rating:4.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Possession
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Possession (1981)

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Jurassic Park but the dinosaurs are feelings and Ian Malcolm is the Berlin Wall.

I'm not much for top ten lists, a past time I exhausted in my early twenties as an excuse to stand near the keg at charitable events, but if I was, Possession would probably not make the cut. But it's certainly a contender for number 11, this is totally my kind of jam.

This is an extreme movie and was graphic enough to be censored or banned in Anglophone countries until 1999 when it finally got an uncut DVD release. Iit was not any more offensive to me than a movie like Hostile, but the subject matter is sexual and squicky and the performances are intense. It is certainly not for the squeamish.

This has some real Lynchy stuff going on, but it's less cerebral and more hypothalmic than Mr. Twin Peaks. Eraserhead is closest comparison for me, but it almost seems good natured compared to Possession. Not quite as batshit as Jodorowsky, but not for lack of trying. There's some Cronenberg in there too. I had assumed that this would deal with demonic possession, but the title is intended mostly in the more pedestrian sense and describes the film on multiple levels. I'm glad I didn't read much about it ahead of time, because I was delightfully surprised from start to finish.

Spoilers.

What we have here is a classic cold war fairy tale: spy hangs up his PPK for a girl, girl cheats on spy and asks for a divorce, spy grants custody, girl abandons child for a second lover, spy confronts first lover and gets beat up, spy hires gumshoe to track wife, spy sleeps with wife's best friend, wife kills gumshoe and gumshoe's lover to protect her secret, spy sleeps with wife's doppelgänger, first lover finds wife but she tries to kill him so he calls the spy for help, but the spy murders him in a lavatory and stages it to look like a drug overdose/suicide, wife kills her best friend, spy burns evidence of wife's murders and plans to escape Berlin with wife but the cops catch up with them and there's a shoot out and the wife reveals her other lover is the spy's doppelgänger and they both die in a hail of bullets. Then the spy doppelgänger returns to the wife's doppelgänger to raise the real kid who drowns himself in the bath as World War III begins.

I forgot to mention that the other lover is some kind of super gross outerspace cthulhu with tentacles and everything that lives in an empty apartment beside The Wall. And the answer to your next question is yes.

The plot functions as an allegory for the emotional trauma Żuławski experienced during his divorce a few years before the film's release. This is sort of the A Allegory. The B Allegory is the divorce as separation of east and west Berlin. Both angles are taken to their logical? extremes and intertwine each other for effect.

Each scene conveys its point very succinctly, usually describing the relationship between Neill and Adjani, and in this context the bizarre and erratic behavior is symbolic of their inner turmoil. Many depict the sort of revenge fantasies one indulges in when suffering from this sort of hurt - sleeping around to arouse jealousy, physically confronting the romantic rival, forgiving the adulterer, introducing an ideal version of the other, etc, and one can assume that this has a therapeutic value in light of the Zulawski's personal experience. The verisimilitude here is spot on and the dysfunctional contempt, while taken to a cartoonish extreme, is clearly drawn from real life.

But there is a coherent and linear plot stitching these scenes together, and since the scenes themselves are often at odds with one another, deciphering the movie requires a sort of augury. This is compounded by the gradual revelation of supernatural metaphysics. I suppose this is the real heady stuff in the movie, and it adds a lot of chew to the existential questions of self posed in the film, but a lot of it comes off as post-modern coffee shop malarkey. "To me, God is a disease..." sounds like something you'd find etched into my trapper keeper in eighth grade. But it fits, and ironically helps ground the bubbling pandemonium of Adjani's performance.

Not that deciphering the movie is really necessary or even helpful, but cracking the cosmic egg is fun. It's the Lynch thing where he exploits our need for narrative structure and let's us tell the story to ourselves. This movie is for the feels, poetry over prose, epiphany over revelation. And this may be where it falters, because I laughed out loud more at this movie than any comedy in recent memory. The performances are so over the top and action so wild and depraved that its hard not to laugh at the audacity. I like to think this is the physiological response to catharsis by proxy.

So, I like it. But what's the man in pink socks got to do with anything?
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23. Board Game: Ever After More: The Card Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Ever After More: The Card Game
Jesse Hickle
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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EVER AFTER - 1998


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I've never seen this, but it's one of my wife's favorite movies, and she wanted to share it with our daughter. So that's what we watched this Labor Day. And I...didn't hate it. I actually kind of liked it. It was an interesting take on the Cinderella story - not quite the same, but with enough similarities that you could tell what they were trying to do. Certainly not the type of movie I'd usually pick out to watch on my own, but I didn't regret the time spent watching.
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24. Board Game: Adventure Game Starter Set: Woman Warrior [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Adventure Game Starter Set: Woman Warrior
Ben Lott
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Mason
Michigan
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New to Me

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Woman at War
(2018) =

Woman at War is a film about a woman who has taken on the role of eco-terrorist to try and fight increased industrialization in Iceland. The question is, can she fight for what she thinks is right, keep her identity hidden from the authorities, and live a normal life in the meantime? This movie was exhilarating in all the right ways. I was totally invested in her adventures, and always wondered if she would take things too far. When regular life comes into play, I was even more interested to see what she might do, since balancing life as an outlaw with domestic life could be impossible. I was totally intrigued by this character. She is likable, and feels like one of the most friendly women you could possibly meet, and yet she is also fiercely passionate about a cause and does what she can for the betterment of her country (without hurting anyone in the process.)

One of the more quirky elements of Woman at War is something I’d rather not spoil for those who haven’t seen the film. However, it’s a fun way of breaking the fourth wall that I never saw coming. It made me laugh every time they went there, and added a unique element that sets this film apart from others I’ve seen. Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is absolutely awesome in the lead role. She has to carry a great deal of this film on her own, and she manages to do it all and make it look easy. The tone of the film ranges from serious to silly, and that could throw some people off. Personally, I thought it worked remarkably well, and I enjoyed both the chuckles and the stress of our hero possibly being caught. It’s a movie that entertains you and makes a point all at the same time. I would highly recommend Woman at War to anyone looking for something off the beaten path. It’s a delightfully different kind of film.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against About Elly
Wins against The Hunt
Wins against Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Loses to The Beauty Inside
Loses to The Mask of Zorro
Loses to Ant-Man and the Wasp
Wins against Police Academy
Loses to Paddington 2
Wins against Radioland Murders
Wins against After the Wedding
Loses to Paddington 2

Woman at War ranked 274 out of 2416 or 89%
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25. RPG Item: Perks & Flaws [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
RPG Item: Perks & Flaws
Ben Lott
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New to Me

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(2012) =

People wouldn’t think it to look at me, but I’m a pretty easy mark when it comes to tearing up at the movies. With just a little investment in the story, a genuinely sad or extremely happy moment can have me reaching for a tissue to dab my eyes. In fact, I often consider this a good sign for a movie, and will rate/rank the movie higher because I was emotionally impacted by it. As I’ve gotten older, my resistance to these moments has increased somewhat (possibly because I’ve become more jaded, or desensitized to them.) But when a movie gets a few well-earned tears, I find it cathartic and pleasurable, which I hope doesn’t make me sound odd. I say all of that in order to set the stage and context for my review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because this film had me crying more than I have in a long time. I’m not talking a single tear running down my face, either. I was sobbing to the point that I had to pause the movie for a moment.

There’s a strong chance that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the most relatable coming-of-age film I’ve ever seen. To be clear, I don’t say that because I experienced the same kind of trauma that the characters in this film endure. But I’ve been the outsider, the onlooker, and the one who needs a friendly person to reach out in order to feel like I belong somewhere. I’ve lived my life in the same introverted bubble that Charlie has been trapped in, and I know how suffocating it can be. I also know what it is to love a person despite the fact that they remain unavailable, and never finding a way to express those feelings. While there are extreme elements to the story that make this more cinematic than my life would be, I think there are universal truths (that can touch so many people) contained within this story. Whether you see yourself as a Charlie, a Sam, a Patrick, a Brad, or whoever else, this movie is chock-full of relatable characters.

It certainly helps The Perks of Being a Wallflower that the cast is basically perfect. Logan Lerman does some remarkable work as the main protagonist, Charlie. There’s an authenticity to his performance that is hard to beat, and he does it in a role that could easily be cold or off-putting from a lesser actor. Emma Watson proves that she has grown into a great actress, and has a top-notch American accent. She brings so much more than a pretty face when Sam that could have been a manic pixie dream girl in a lesser film. Ezra Miller is nuanced as Patrick, a role that could easily be over-the-top and a parody of a gay teen. His performance feels like people I actually know who have struggled with being gay in a society that fails too fully accept them. It seems everyone in the cast gets a moment to shine, and if I were interested in writing a full thesis on this film then perhaps I would take the time to wander further down the cast list, but let’s just say I appreciated everyone.

It’s kind of astounding that a studio believed in the author of the original novel so much that they allowed him to direct the film adaptation. Even more astounding is the fact that it worked this well. It’s clear that Stephen Chbosky took the time to recreate his story exactly as he envisioned it when writing it down. Watching this film helps me to understand why it was a best-selling novel, because it feels like a story that you are witnessing firsthand, as if you are part of this circle of friends or are inside Charlie’s mind struggling along with him. As you can tell by the extensive amount of praise I have lavished on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I loved it. It is on a short list of films that I wanted to watch again mere minutes after I was done (and I would have if I had the time that day.) I’m sure others disagree, and some critics probably label it as derivative, manipulative, or even trite. Frankly, I don’t care what anyone else thinks, it’s a film that affected me in a powerful way, and will quickly become one of my all-time favorites.

Ranking on my Flickchart
Wins against The Terminal
Wins against Slumdog Millionaire
Wins against Misery
Wins against The Beauty Inside
Loses to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Wins against Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Loses to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Loses to Music and Lyrics
Loses to Lady on a Train
Loses to Shaun of the Dead
Loses to Mary Poppins
Loses to Stardust

The Perks of Being a Wallflower ranked 112 out of 2417 or 95%
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