Movies You Watched in April 2015
Ben Lott
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This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month of April. 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.

Enjoy...

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1. Board Game: Hitchiker [Average Rating:3.59 Unranked]
Ben Lott
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Mason
Michigan
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New to Me


Detour is an interesting look at how some no-name studios were able to slap together a film on a tight budget back in the day. It is loaded with production mistakes, and other flaws that are hard to ignore. However, it is also a strong example of early film noir. The tone of the film is dark and gritty, and so is the look of it. I was impressed at how they utilized the lighting and the atmosphere to create the mood. Basically this is the story of a young man (Al Roberts) who decides to hitch rides across the country in order to meet up with the girl he loves. Along the way a man who gives him a ride ends up dead and Roberts makes the decision that, in order to avoid prison it is best to hide the body and then steal his identity. What is most interesting about this story is the question it leaves you with as an audience member. Is Al really an innocent bystander who just makes poor choices and gets trapped by them, or is this actually the story of a murderer who is trying to justify what he's done to himself. You see we are told the whole story from the perspective of Al's voice within his own head, so we don't have a 100% reliable narrator, and that is where the story held some interest for me. I don't think the acting was all that great. Tom Neal is very flat, and Ann Savage is shrill and annoying. Yet I was just interested enough in what was really going on to keep watching. I absolutely will not be seeing this movie again, but it was a nice look back at how some movies were made, and what can be accomplished when you leave a few of the facts to the viewer's imagination. If you have an hour to spare (yes, it's only 67 minutes long) check this one out. It's in the public domain so you can watch it free all over the internet, and it's got a decent story even if the execution isn't spot on.
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2. Board Game: Darjeeling [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1964]
Kat A
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The Darjeeling Limited
Such a good movie idea in theory, but so slow in practicality. Unless you just really love ethereal, existential experiences, or are really bored, might want to pass on it. Oh, but there were some gorgeous landscape shots.
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3. Board Game: Monsters Menace America [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:3335]
Stoic Bird
United States
Fairport
New York
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Monsters University



The biggest driver of my 3-star rating is that, for a comedy, the film delivered only occasional laughs for me. It was decidedly middle of the road on that front.

Having watched this, I've now seen every Pixar film to date. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan; I think their output tends to be consistently above average, but rarely truly great. The Pixar folks do high concept better than just about anyone in Hollywood (or otherwise), in part because their concepts are generally pretty good and in part because they also have a knack for creating memorable characters. However, they often come up short on plot, which is a general problem with high concept projects. I don't think it's a coincidence that 3 of what I consider their 4 best films - the first Toy Story, The Incredibles and Ratatouille - enlisted outside Hollywood talent (Joss Whedon, Brad Bird, and Brad Bird again respectively) and had the strongest narrative arcs. The 4th film I'd put in that category, WALL-E, is the exception that proves the rule; the near-perfect opening sequence (i.e., where the high concept shines through) bought the film a large amount of goodwill from me, to the point that I'm willing to forgive a lot, including a fairly weak third act.

Monsters University is no exception to this general Pixar trend, both for good and ill. Last month there was some discussion about Terminator 2 in terms of good sequels, and I think part of what makes sequels (or, in this case, prequels) to high concept films lackluster much of the time is overanalysis. High concept films are often like movie sets; they look great from a distance, but if you get too close, you realize they're two dimensional, and if you lean too hard on them, they'll fall down.

The Toy Story sequels are a great example of this. The first Toy Story was able to use the spectre of being an "unwanted toy" to frame the central conflict, and it worked well because one didn't think too much about it. It was left at the level of "these are toys, and they want to be played with". With the sequels, they started to get into the psychological implications of toys that never get to be played with (TS2) or are lost and/or played with improperly (TS3). The result is a major tonal shift that, by the end of TS3, even starts feeling misanthropic - a far cry from the relatively lighthearted tone of the first. (Toy Story 3 is the only Pixar feature film to which I would give an outright negative review - yes, I thought it was worse than Cars 2.) Similarly, MU left me with lots of questions about Monsters, Inc. that I didn't previously have - I didn't buy Randall's transformation into antagonist at all, for instance, and the details about infrastructure showcased in this film made me wonder where the superstition about children being toxic came from in the first place. Monsters, Inc. was already thin on plot even by Pixar standards; part of the reason I didn't see MU right away was that I didn't think the world was particularly worth revisiting, and the film didn't really change my mind about that.

So after all that dumping, how did I end up with the 3 stars I gave this? I thought the concept behind this film ended up being particularly compelling.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I can't think of another film I've ever seen that demonstrates the real lessons of failure and importance of cooperation as effectively and realistically as this one. In Mike and Sully, they've built two characters who are sort of prototypical failures - the person who works harder than anyone else and still can't keep up because of a lack of natural talent, and the person who has loads of talent but no work ethic. Both were big fish in small ponds who just can't cut it in the big pond, and ultimately both work together to achieve what neither could do separately - sort of.

What I find interesting about that is that the "pattern" for these sorts of stories is usually the inspirational sports film model: character suffers setback, character outworks everyone else, character has miraculous comeback and achieves their original goal. In this film, the characters suffered a setback, and outworked everyone else - and then they failed again. Mike never did achieve his original goal, but the ending was still happy, because he found a different way to put his skill set to use in an arena where he could find success. (From a positive message point of view, I also LOVED that they had to work their way up from the mailroom - I think I probably could've learned a lot from this film before I started my career.)

I can't think of many other films I've ever seen that are even remotely like this - either the characters achieve all their goals, or they discover the power of friendship or whatever and decide the original goal wasn't worthwhile - but I think this model happens in reality quite a bit and makes for a more compelling narrative, in my opinion. The closest one I can think of is, fittingly, the based-on-a-true-story Moneyball, where former high school all-star Billy Beane gives up his mediocre Major League career to work in the front office, where he has far more success than he ever did as a player. If there are more stories like this out there, I'd definitely be interested in seeing them.


On the whole, much like Big Hero 6, I appreciated what the film was trying to be and wanted to like it much more than I actually enjoyed watching it.
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4. Board Game: Love and Marriage [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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The One I Love

Difficult to talk about since the vast majority of the film and much of any developments involve a rather early twist. In short, a couple seeks marriage counseling and eventually gets recommended to stay at a place where couples have had great success helping their relationships. It is vastly a two person show since it is a couple by themselves. Thumbs way up on this.
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5. Board Game: Beetlejuice Bone to Pick Game [Average Rating:4.12 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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BIRDMAN

Just watched Birdman the 2014 Oscar pick for best picture. I don't think much needs to be said - I thought this was a riveting, excellent satire. Great acting all around.

It reminded me a bit of Brazil, in that there were times where what we saw thru the protagonist's eyes was no longer "reality". In fact, the whole thing reminded me of a Terry Gilliam movie, which I consider high praise.

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6. Board Game: Spel van het jaar 2001 [Average Rating:5.30 Unranked]
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Australia
Melbourne
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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2001: A Space Odyssey

70mm print, it was the last day of the Astor Theatre (in its current incarnation anyway) so Daughter the Elder and I went to see 2001 on a BIG screen, the way it was meant to be seen. I'm glad we did.
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7. Board Game: Enigma [Average Rating:4.70 Overall Rank:14666]
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Imitation Game


I managed to screw up my reservation for "Into The Woods", so brought this home from Redox instead. The first of the Oscar nominees that I have finally seen. I had heard a lot about it and the suspected divergences from actual history did not bother me as much as I expected.

This movie was certainly worthy of a nomination. I will have to wait and see how it stacks up when I watch some of the others. It was well-written and well-acted, though I was a little surprised how long it took them to realize the common phrase that I already knew was the key.
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8. Board Game: The Good, the Bad, and the Munchkin [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:3180] [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
GodRob
United States
Culpeper
Virginia
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Finally watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I had never seen this movie in all of my 45+ years! It was occassionally on TV when I was a kid but I never got around to watching much of it then and never had the inclination to watch it when I was older.

AMAZING!

It's slow but never boring. Extremely intense at times. The music is a little out there but memorable. I don't even have the words to describe how great Eli Wallach is in this film.

Why I watched it: I had to stop at the Dollar General store after work to get some sinus pills because spring is in the air and noticed a cheap DVD for Planet of the Apes (that I also haven't seen). Going through the bin, I found a blu-ray triple pack of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Magnificent 7, all for only $7 total! Watched Butch and Sundance last night but it didn't grab me. Watching the Magnificent 7 right now and it's not all that magnificent.
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9. Board Game: Personal Portraits [Average Rating:5.75 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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New to Me


As I've been watching a number of these older films one of the standout actors has been Edward G. Robinson, and he keeps impressing in Scarlet Street. This is the story of an old bank clerk who is stuck in a depressing marriage and tries to entertain himself by dabbling in painting. Then, through some miscommunication, a young woman thinks he is a rich artist. She decides to flirt with him and try to get money out of him. Being so happy to have the attention of a young woman he makes all kinds of poor decisions to make her happy. I'm not 100% sure what the woman was involved in before, she has an abusive boyfriend who is in the picture, encouraging her to continue working on the clerk, so I started to wonder if she was a prostitute and he was her pimp. None of this is clear, but it's not the most essential information to the story. I like the dark tone of the story, and there were a few moments that genuinely surprised me. However I started to find that none of the characters were really good people. It became a bit frustrating that there was no one to root for in the story. Edward G. Robinson is the closest we have to a likable protagonist, but as his life starts to crumble, he starts deteriorating quite a bit. My other big problem was that I found Dan Duryea annoying and hard to watch for more than a couple minutes at a time. A lot of this stuff I'm complaining about was clearly intentional as part of the plot, it just didn't sit well with me, but the end was haunting and worked perfectly. Scarlet Street is a good film, but not one I'm going to want to watch again.
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10. Board Game: Assassin [Average Rating:3.45 Overall Rank:15983]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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New to Me


Oh boy, I could go off on this movie for so long. In fact I think I might just do that. Let's start with the nonsensical plot of a government agency that decides the best method of recruiting assassins is to pick up criminals before they are sent to prison. So we get to watch this psychotic woman with no control (to the point where she stabs a cop who's trying to help her) and she is trusted with guns and knives. There's no reason to believe in her, but they do anyways, and because the plot needs to move forward she decides to completely transform and become good. Anne Parillaud is a strange actress. At moments she makes Nikita appear to be an interesting character, but then there are other moments where she goes way over the top and becomes extraordinarily obnoxious. Her performance doesn't gel together into a cohesive character, and is almost unwatchable. Tcheky Karyo gives off a tough vibe as Nikita's handler, but his delivery gets a bit monotone after awhile. In fact he becomes so bland and flat to the point where I just don't care that his role diminishes later in the film. Even the remarkable Jean Reno is wasted in this film. He becomes nothing more than a yelling non-character who only shows up to increase the level of conflict for Nikita.

So what works in La Femme Nikita? Not much. They introduce a love interest for her that she seems to fall madly in love with for no reason at all, other than he was there. They manufacture a big climactic hit that she must perform, but they even undermine that by having everything fall apart but the organization still makes her bumble through it. The only moment I started to think Nikita could end up being an entertaining film was her first hit, but even that got a little over-the-top and ridiculous after a few minutes. I think they could have made a really interesting film if they had spent some time from her boyfriend's point of view. He had an interesting journey because apparently he started to suspect something strange was going on, he started investigating where she disappeared to, he discovered she didn't work at the place she said, and so on. But they avoided any decisions that might be interesting in this movie. I'd recommend you avoid La Femme Nikita, it is not a very good film and there are better movies with the whole "undercover assassin" plot line.
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11. Board Game: Belle of the Ball [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:4224]
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Belle (2013)


This is the story of a young mulatto girl who is rescued from poverty by her British Navy Officer father around 1770 and brought to live with her great uncle, a prominent judge (Tom Wilkinson), in England. Her cousin, the judge's granddaughter, is also living there. The scene shifts quickly to ten or fifteen years later and Belle receives word that her father has died and left here a substantial dowry. Meanwhile, her cousin's father has remarried and has a son, so she is without dowry. The movie plays off the aristocratic rules for proper behavior and marriage along with the obvious racial issues against a backdrop of an important slave trade insurance lawsuit that the judge is due to rule on.

The aristocracy rules are very similar to what one would expect from the early twentieth century rules displayed in Downton Abbey. Fans of Downton Abbey and other period pieces of that type should enjoy this. It is well done for what it is, and is at least inspired by a real life situation involving the judge's family.

Tom Felton plays a character whose personality is not that far from Draco Malfoy.
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12. Board Game: Extra! Extra! [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:4500]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Ace in the Hole is the story of a reporter played by Kirk Douglas who has to settle for working for a small town newspaper after burning a lot of bridges in the big cities. However he dreams of working his way back by turning the simple story of a man trapped in a mine into national news. Along the way he makes a lot of questionable decisions to keep the story going, and that's where the movie really gets interesting. Some of the conversations that Douglas has with other characters about how the media can manufacture a news story is very intriguing and still relevant today. I was totally impressed by Kirk Douglas's performance. He is the most intelligent guy in the room, and certainly takes control of most situations. Yet he still manages to be someone I was rooting for throughout the film. It's not easy to play someone with extreme ego and determination, but also show some heart and conscience behind that, but Douglas has the talent to do that. Jan Sterling is the heartless wife of the trapped man, and she is absolutely despicable (which is exactly what the role calls for, so this isn't really a complaint.) Porter Hall was exceptional as Boot (the editor of the newspaper.) He becomes the physical embodiment of truth, and plagues Douglas as the character who represents the conscience of the movie. Finally I should mention Richard Benedict as the man trapped in the mine. He is so nice and friendly that it's hard to watch him suffer. His slow descent into despair is played amazingly, and almost brought me to tears later in the movie.

That emotional core is what I was most impressed with while watching Ace in the Hole. I was totally invested in the story, and found myself running the gamut of emotions throughout. I was so strongly affected that I sat in silence after the film ended, until my wife asked me what was wrong. The performances were great, but the script is what really drove it all home. There were a lot of lines where people were saying one thing while clearly meaning something different, and they trusted the audience enough to follow what was going on without holding our hands. The look of the film was good for a black and white film, they used some really creative camera placement, and the interior of the cave felt very authentic. It's worth mentioning that I watched this on the Criterion DVD, which has brilliantly restored the video and audio. I could easily praise this film all day, it was one of the best films from the early fifties that I've ever seen. Also the themes are still poignant to this day despite the fact that newspapers are dying. Ace in the Hole takes a real look at how the media executes a story and can indirectly influence events so that they can make it as big a story as possible. Add this to the list of films I highly recommend you watch, it's a winner.
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13. Board Game: Division Down Under [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Long Time No See


I'm pretty sure that if you ever asked me in my younger years if I liked Westerns I would have said "no way." However when it comes to films like Quigley Down Under I realize my Dad was indoctrinating me from a young age to like Westerns anyways. This is one of the films that he had me watch and I still like it to this day. What sets this one apart from others in the genre is that they move the action to the Australian outback. However in every way it seems to follow a traditional old west formula. Tom Selleck plays an expert long-range marksman who arrives in Australia to apply for a job working for Alan Rickman (a wealthy land owner.) However their relationship doesn't start out well when Selleck discovers Rickman wants his skills in order to help kill Aborigines. I like how they have equated the plight of native Australians with that of native Americans, despite the fact that you can tell they've simplified and Hollywood-ized the situation a bit. It's also worth noting that they never show the Aborigines having a moment of strength where they fight for their own cause, Quigley basically becomes their only hope of salvation in this film. But if you can get past that kind of stuff the story is an entertaining one.

I think Tom Selleck is great in the lead role. He should have done more Westerns, because his look and personality work well for that genre. Alan Rickman naturally plays a delightful villain. His distinguished accent and mannerisms are an excellent counterpoint to Selleck. Laura San Giacomo is the love interest, who's a bit off her rocker. I like how they slowly reveal her story and it's nice to see that, as we learn more about her, she becomes less annoying and more sympathetic. That's never an easy transition to make. The story is well crafted and I can never get enough of Quigley making those long shots with his rifle. There's almost something superhuman about his skill and it gives him a more powerful aura. Matthew Quigley is the kind of character I love seeing in films, the hero who fights with honor and only kills those who threaten the lives of others. The final showdown between the 2 lead characters is excellent and has a nice little twist that, while you might expect it, fits perfectly with the personality of the characters. I can't guarantee you'll love this movie, but it works well for me and is one that I can watch any time.
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14. Board Game: The King's Armory [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:3960]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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Kingsman: The Secret Service

I knew I wanted to see this movie from the first preview - primarily because I love Colin Firth, but also I like a good British spy movie. Yet it was hard to get out to the theater when it first came out, and we kept putting it off. After my brother's glowing review, I really pushed hard to make sure we went this past weekend before it escaped theaters. And I'm so glad I did!

This was a delightfully cheeky spy thriller that hit all the right high notes. Great casting, slick action, and primo costuming. The violence was a bit shocking and over the top at times, but that also started to feel like part of the inside joke.

It was just a really fun ride, and I left the theater thinking, "Sequel?" and then "I want to see it again. Like, now." Which is very rare for me.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
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15. Board Game: Art Shark [Average Rating:5.45 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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BIG EYES

Big Eyes is a biopic about Margaret Keane, who painted those big-eyed waif paintings, and her husband Walter Keane, who took credit for them at first. And who parlayed them into a pretty significant art empire with posters and coffee table books and the like.

Very good, interesting, highly recommended. No explosions, though.

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16. Board Game: 4th Dimension [Average Rating:5.30 Overall Rank:14128]
Simon Brand
Scotland
Edinburgh
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The Fourth Dimension - Zbigniew Rybczynski - 1988

I'm a huge fan of Rybczynski's Oscar-winning short Tango, so watching another of his films has been a long time coming.

Similar to Tango, The Fourth Dimension is an experimental film showcasing a particular technical achievement. In this case, it is a bizarre warping rotation of people and objects in an otherwise static scene.

The result is otherworldly and incredibly impressive, especially when he includes a number of dynamic and static mirrors in the scene which correctly reflect the distorted images. My guess is that he had objects on some kind of rotating dais or pulled by strings, which he filmed normally, then manually added delay to the horizontal lines of the image to give the desired effect.

A fascinating experiment, highly recommended for the short running time.
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17. Board Game: The Mind Game [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Strange Days is a good idea gone wrong. It is the story of a violent future world (well, it's 1999) where a device has been developed that can record and playback different experiences simply by sticking a "squid" on your head. Lenny, a dealer in recorded experiences played by Ralph Fiennes, happens upon a recorded murder. In order to protect himself from being accused of the crime he decides he must figure out who committed the crime and why. The biggest problem with this film is that this is not the only plot in the movie. If they focused in on this storyline they could have had something special because it carried emotion (since Lenny knew the victim) and it kept the focus on the recorded memories which was the most unique part of the film. However there's this plot about the end of the world because it was about to become the year 2000, there's a whole gang killing that gets inserted in here, there's the failed relationship between Lenny and his girlfriend and his desire to win her back, there's even some dirty cops, not to mention the mounting tensions between the cops and the gangs that seemed to be moments from total anarchy. Even with a ridiculously long run-time they just couldn't handle that many storylines all jammed into one film. It was easily one of the most jumbled and confusing plots I've ever seen. It never made sense, and even after all the exposition at the end I'm not sure how it all connected together.

Ralph Fiennes is not bad as a guy who is roughly equivalent to a drug dealer. His look was just scruffy enough, and yet he had some heart so I could have rooted for him. I don't understand, however, why the protagonist in these films always has to be an ex-cop. This extra back story for Lenny was utterly pointless, and the only reason I can see for it existing in the script is as an excuse for how he is able to make such wild leaps of logic in order to keep the plot moving forward. Juliette Lewis plays Lenny's ex-girlfriend, and her performance is as horribly flat and bland as every other movie I've seen her in. Clearly she was only hired because she is relatively famous and was willing to be topless for half the movie. Tom Sizemore is not subtle enough in his performance as Lenny's friend. You can figure out the trajectory of his character's arc about 10 minutes into the film. Michael Wincott is a horrible villainous character, and I just can't stand listening to him talk. Sadly the good villainous actors are given the smallest roles, because Vincent D'Onofrio and William Fichtner barely speak for the entire run of the movie. Now if you know anything about Strange Days, then you might notice that there's one performance I didn't mention, and it is from the second-billed actor in the movie, so let's get to that...

Angela Bassett plays a limo-driving friend of Lenny's named "Mace." There are times in movies when you will find characters who I would call superfluous to the plot. Like Casey Affleck in Interstellar, these characters could be written out without hurting the plot in any way. However Angela Bassett's character is so shoehorned into the plot that removing her might actually make Strange Days better! First of all there are countless scenes where we have to repeat things we already know just to get Mace up to speed. It seems that at least one of the plotlines was manufactured strictly to give her something to do in the climax of the film. Her character lacks any depth, she is merely added muscle who scowls and rages at different characters throughout, and she continuously says one thing and then does something completely opposite. Now, before I wrap up I have to mention the one thing I did appreciate about Strange Days. Some of the cinematography, particularly in the first-person scenes was very inventive. They gave you a genuine feel for looking from a character's perspective, without shaking the camera around too much and making me nauseous. That is the one and only compliment I can pay to this film, otherwise it is a total travesty. And I could keep talking about it, after all this movie went on way too long so why shouldn't my review. In fact anyone who complains about the multiple endings in the Lord of the Rings should watch Strange Days, because I think it might have even more. Needless to say, I would tell anyone and everyone to absolutely avoid this disastrously bad film.
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18. Board Game: Transportation Tricks [Average Rating:6.23 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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The Prestige might be the ultimate test to see if a movie with a twist ending can live up to the hype when a viewer goes in (like me) already knowing the twist. It also might be the ultimate test to see if I can talk about a movie with a twist ending without giving away any spoilers. If you don't know, The Prestige is a film about 2 aspiring young magicians who develop a heated rivalry and work tirelessly to outdo one another, and also discover their rival's secrets. I found the non-linear story-telling to be quite difficult to wrap my mind around. For the first 30 minutes or more of the film I was at a complete loss to figure out what was happening when. As a result I imagine this is a film that might benefit from a re-watch. I will say that the Nolans crafted a script that was quite complex, and even with full knowledge of the secrets of their tricks going in, there was plenty to watch and try to figure out. In that way the movie succeeds at being a perfectly executed magic trick in itself, because hours after watching you're trying to figure out how the director did that, and if you didn't know the secret going in you might even be impressed by the way the movie tricked you despite all the foreshadowing that they loaded the film with. It's a brilliant exercise in misdirection. So, I have no complaints about the script, it is quite inventive and original.

Hugh Jackman did a decent job with his role. I felt that, at times, he was a bit one-note when all he seemed to be portraying was frustration and jealousy. However, towards the end of the film he's asked to do a lot more emotionally and he pulls it off. Christian Bale, on the other hand, is just remarkable from start to finish. He probably has the more difficult role to execute, but he does it brilliantly. I bet watching the film multiple times would help you to catch even more nuance in his performance. Scarlett Johansson was a bit wasted in her role as the magician's assistant. She plays a key part in the plot as a go-between for the two competitors, but she doesn't get to do much with that. Perhaps if she were allowed in on the secret with one of the men it might have given her more to do. Surprisingly, the female performance that most impressed me was Rebecca Hall who plays the wife of Christian Bale. She is essential in figuring out what is really happening, and plays her mix of confusion and heartbreak perfectly. There are a number of other great actors in the supporting roles including names like Michael Caine, David Bowie, and Andy Serkis (not in motion capture) and they all perform brilliantly. It's a great cast list, and each actor was well-suited to their role.

There were a few things that I didn't enjoy about the experience of watching The Prestige without the wonder of being surprised at the end. This is where I'll have to delve into some spoilers, so I apologize:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
First of all, I thought the makeup effects were not very good. I'd be really surprised if most people were fooled by Fallon because he looks like Christian Bale with a horrible fake beard and glasses on. However the real dilemma I struggled with was the illogical nature of so many of the plot points when you know the end. Why would the brother who didn't love their wife ever go home to her? I realize they took turns, but it seems the brother who loves her would always get the turn with her. Next, why did Hugh Jackman feel the need to murder his doubles, couldn't he have figured out a way of executing the trick in the exact same way that Bale did once he had a single duplicate of himself? Also, why didn't the brother who wasn't in jail take the police to Jackman or something in order to clear his brothers' name instead of letting him die? Clearly he had Michael Caine on his side at that point, so they could have vouched for it being the same man that Bale was supposed to have killed. It even bothered me a little that they have it timed out how long to wait before it's too late for someone to escape the water trap, but they didn't take into account that the ax they were using couldn't break the stinking glass.


A lot of this stuff is nit-picky, but it did bother me a bit while watching so it's worth mentioning. In general I thought the smarts of the movie outweighed the plot holes, so The Prestige is a good film that I'd like to watch again sometime. It's not quite on par with my favorite Nolan movies, but it's close.
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19. Board Game: Legendary: Dark City [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.32 Unranked]
Simon Brand
Scotland
Edinburgh
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Dark City - Alex Proyas - 1998

Wow this was disappointing. I love the visual style and premise, so thought this would be a winner. Unfortunately, those aspects couldn't fix the myriad plot holes, awful acting by Sutherland, silly action scenes, cheesy ending, uninteresting characters and pacing at odds with the atmosphere.

On the plus side, it makes me want to watch Blade Runner again.
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20. Board Game: Franklin [Average Rating:1.50 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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FRANK

Frank is a funny/sad story about an experimental rock band headed (hah) by a guy called Frank who always - ALWAYS - wears a big fake head. A young English guy joins the band as a keyboardist more or less by accident, and the story goes from there.

A really quirky, sometimes funny sometimes sad movie. The performances were great - Michael Fassbender as Frank proving you can act and convey meaning even behind a mask, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Frank's threatening girlfriend/band member and Domhnall Gleeson as the young English keyboard player.

Great story, great movie. Roughly based on a real-life character, but definitely a fictional flick.

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21. Board Game: Contract Killers [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Blood Simple is the first film by the Coen Brothers and it certainly fits the title. Of all the films they've made this one probably has the simplest premise. A wife runs off with another man, so the husband is angry and hires someone to kill them, and then things start to go wrong. It does have what would become the familiar Coen style of playing against our expectations. They set up certain things so that we anticipate that the story will go one way, and then they take you a completely different direction. This leads to at least one really entertaining scene where someone is trying to dispose of a body and it becomes quite a complex process. I think the reason I failed to be entertained by Blood Simple is the cast of nasty and occasionally moronic characters. There is no one who I get behind and start rooting for through 90% of the movie. I will admit the final scene offered a brief moment where I was invested in one of the characters, but up to that point I really didn't care who lived or died. The other issue is that this is a very quiet movie. There are long stretches without many lines and I just started to zone out because of this quiet. The acting was OK, the cinematography was not bad, but overall it just felt lackluster and so I was not invested in the story. It is short and has a few moments of decent entertainment, so I wouldn't say avoid Blood Simple, but I also can't say it is a must-see.
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22. Board Game: Burn in Hell [Average Rating:4.48 Overall Rank:15960]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Barton Fink is a beautifully shot film with some really stunning audio and visual moments that convey such a palpable sensation you almost feel like you are inside the movie with the characters. Also, when it holds to the story of a Broadway/Hollywood writer who believes he can understand the common man but actually refuses to listen, I am completely on board for the that movie. Sadly, it doesn't hold to that simple story. It is overloaded with symbolic gobbledygook that makes this movie nearly intolerable for me. I don't like when I have to do homework and analyze a film in order to fathom the writers' intentions, in fact I hate it. Some slight symbolism that might add some depth to the story when you look more closely is a fine thing to insert into a film, and it might even make it a more intelligent movie which I would appreciate. However Barton Fink wanders into a strange fantastical dimension where the laws of physics stop applying and people start saying things that make no sense, and suddenly I'm sitting there saying "What in the world is happening right now?!" It also kind of felt like the film was written and created just to appeal to the Hollywood artsy-fartsy crowd. It was so loaded with "inside jokes" that I could see other creative types just lapping it up but it sails right over my head. I didn't hate Barton Fink because, despite the rampant symbolic mumbo-jumbo, it did have a coherent story that I found entertaining at times. I can see this being a favorite film for some, it just isn't a film made for someone like me.
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23. Board Game: Ex-Machina [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Ex Machina

I actually can't recall the last time I paid for a movie in a theater that didn't involve a superhero. Needless to say I was pumped to find this limited release film coming my way. I really hope this gets some screenplay nominations when it comes time. If Whiplash is a recent standard, then yes, this is up there.
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24. Board Game: Big Balls [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Simon Brand
Scotland
Edinburgh
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Cremaster 1 - Matthew Barney - 1996

I finally got round to starting the Cremaster Cycle, which I've been meaning to watch for years. It's very notorious in art film circles for its dense internal symbolic language and length.

After watching the first part of five, I'm not sure about many things. Is it a masterpiece of complex cinematic art at its most uncompromising or a self-indulgent mess of thinly-veiled references to genitalia? Is the editor a drunk Edward Scissorhands or a master of creating an original cinematic language emulating the subject matter? Is the CGI laughably dreadful or is the laughable dreadfulness another layer of symbolism?

My fear is that the answer is "yes".
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