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What Is The Last Film You Watched? (Older Films)

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MV5BOTg4ZTNkZmUtMzNlZi00YmFjLTk1MmUtNWQw

 

Well, that was...puzzling. For years, 'Deathproof' was considered Tarantino's lamest movie, but this lackadaisical affair now is a hot contender for that throne. Usually when QT's movies start to ramble, it's for good reason: you may not like every digression but you get why they are there. Or they're cool. In positioning his story so squarely in the *real* Hollywood of 1969, the director handcuffs himself into lingering too long on people and places that just not warrant the excessive runtime, even worse, the writing here is so indifferent and all loose ends that it seems only geared towards people who cannot get enough of old B-movie posters and neon-lighted billboards.

 

But first things first. DiCaprio plays a down-on-his-luck western actor (a luckless McQueen), who drinks too much, hangs around too much with his old fall guy pal (Brad Pitt, in a performance of real Marlboro Man splendor) and is now relegated to playing bad guys on lowbrow tv pilots. He, by coincidence, lives next to famous/hip couple Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. It would be an overstatement to say that after 2.5 hours their fates intertwine, it just happens to be the end of the movie. We follow DiCaprio's travails through B-movie land, including a detour to Rome (a short summation of Cinecitta's movie culture ca. 1969, the movie's only amusing bit), but all this is basically a background for the male bonding between DiCaprio and Pitt.

 

Glimpses of late 60's hippie culture are sprinkled throughout that only gain momentum when Pitt finds an enclave of spooky hippies who squat an old Hollywood western ranch, impersonations of the infamous Manson gang who a short while later brutally murdered the pregnant Tate and her friends. As stated above, by that point the movie has run its course as the end - not to be spoilered here - rewrites history to headscratching effect

Spoiler

('Inglorious Basterds' style)

that really makes you question what Tarantino possibly could have in mind.

 

So much for story, there are so many things running afoul before the denouement that OuatiH lost me on several occasions: i could stomach DiCaprio, a good actor, never remotely looking like a 50's/60's western guy (it takes you right out of the scenes he has to re-enact) but even worse, a long succession of scenes devoted to seeing old 'Have Gun Will Travel' episodes filmed seem totally arbitrary. I can claim to have watched many programs of that ilk in my merry youth but nothing that Tarantino puts up the screen looks right. That ain't 'Bonanza', it ain't 'The Men from Shiloh' and it ain't 'A Fistful of Dollars', either. It's a rough mix of disparate styles (and totally uncharacteristically high production values) you start asking yourself why QT then so painstakingly re-creates old LA, GTA-style, if he's so blasé here? (don't get me started on silly one-upmanship bs like the scene with Bruce Lee)


The mellow glow doesn't do the movie any good - it lacks punch and observational wit, the things QT is famed for - and when the end credits roll, all that's left is a good needle-drop score (what else is new?) and the impression that 1969 was a banner year because murderous hippies drove old backlot Hollywood down (equated with mediocre assembly line tv here). Except they weren't hippies and nothing really changed (the Tate murders, heinous as they were, came late in a long line of public crimes that shook he US). Tarantino's brutal retaliation pose makes no real sense, one, because it was a freak crime without any systemic connection to anything (many people in my cinema didn't even seem to know the Tate murders) and our main protagonists do not represent anything besides washed-up Hollywood dudes. I still look for possible interpretations that make any sense. Till i find them i file 'Once upon a Time in Hollywood' under 'watchable but doesn't warrant second viewing'. 

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I would nutshell it like this: Woody Allen does one film per year and at this rate there are going to be some clunkers along the way. Tarantino stated once he will stop at 10 movies so he has a no wiggle room for less-than-stellar work. I don't long for something important, but a certain throughline, an engaging thought behind a 170-minute movie would be nice.

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Planet of the Apes, the original 5. Went in expecting at least somewhat enjoyable schlock, was surprised. Love - eh - like - really like - eh.

 

 

Planet is an indisputible classic. What I came upon now is how the ending is better the more you think about it - as one example, through the film we accept, perhaps even without realising it, that this planet just happens to have provided Earth-like environment and evolutionary possibilities for not only recogniseable apes and humans, but ones that read and speak perfect English, as the usual dumb bit of Movie Logic, then the end proving it was future Earth all along suddenly puts those throwaway nitpick bits into a whole new perspective.

 

Beneath was kind of entertainingly stupid until the talk with those first 3 mutants that seemed to go on forever, then it was just boring with some silly ideas. Another great strength of the shock ending of the original is putting the hero on his absolute low point and ending it there. You're left to wonder whether he will drown himself, go back to the apes for at least some stability and try to fight for better treatment, or wander the desert with Nova forever in search of something left. Well, Beneath states in a banal way that it's the latter, until he gets captured a week later and blows up the entire Earth over the squabble of two kinda small groups. That's the worst thing about it, weakening the original somewhat while barely adding anything of worth to it. (doomsday weapon bad)

 

Escape: fully expected it to descend into comedy, actually treated its concepts kind of seriously and well after things like Shopping Spree. As in, scenes of the president and advisor actually talking about facts, possibilities, gathering more evidence, what course of action to take, morals of those, instead of simply "big bad government kill you" from the get-go.

 

Conquest: Choosing to go back and make the timeline a self-fulfilling and self-explaining loop was a great choice with great opportunities. I have honestly no clue how original or cliché the authoritative oppressive fascist atmosphere was in 1972, but it's certainly not executed badly here! I especially liked the sharp cinematography, the filmic looking contrast between the clean white environment, dark human clothes and colourful ape attire. Montalbán is always great to have and commands every frame he's in. Roddy McDowall being the throughline of this whole series (mostly) was a surprise, but certainly not unwelcome! (even if Cornelius had much more personality than Caesar) I don't know which numbnut decided to revise the ending somewhat obviously (worse quality overdub, reversed shots we just saw), to make an Apes movie finale less of a downer, but it's tolerable here.

 

Battle: This didn't deepen the series with much either, also felt very small-scale. The greatest crime of this one is the kinda optimistic ending, making it even more confusing how humans became the dumb mute animals seen in the first 2. The ending shot of the crying statue I don't even hate, I just don't get it: if the Lawgiver were to twist Caesar's words to sow discontent and gain power and control, and/or they'd show the original script ending of the kids in groups fighting on the playground, apes vs. humans, then we saw Caesar's statue weeping after in the film he realised apes were not that different from humans and working together would be the way to go, that would be a still cheesy but I think stomachable comment on the whole thing, as well as keeping with the endings all being somewhat of a downer.

 

After failing to get through Quo Vadis, El Cid and (temporarily) Braveheart, I can seriously appreciate that even when "eh", these were only 90 minutes of unremarkable "eh" instead of 130 or 210!

 

Scores: might as well collect quick thoughts separately, as they were the main reason I started this whole thing!

First: well, it LLL remastered and released this one separately, it would be halfway to me already!

Third: somewhat of a lowkey mixed bag. Short in length and on highlights. I'm usually no big fan of contemporary pop scores or bits, but the main titles are pretty groovy.

Rosenmann ones: I can certainly see myself growing to love them after not too many listens. Happy to find something from him that I could like!

Tom Scott's one is not easy to pin down based on the third of it that was in the actual film, but what I heard I liked.

 

I think that LLL box could be mine before it sells out.

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It descending into mindless violence right then could even make Battle unnecessary, keeping Caesar as the oppressed-turned-villain, proving extremism births extremism!

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49 minutes ago, Holko said:

Planet of the Apes, the original 5. Went in expecting at least somewhat enjoyable schlock, was surprised. Love - eh - like - really like - eh.

 

Your thoughts seem to line up with mine pretty well. Planet is a Classic and something everyone should have seen, not as a genre film but as an Orwellian satire of the highest order. Escape and Conquest are really good as well, certainly entertaining, and while not on the level of the first, they retain the serious themes of the series' original makeup and handle them well. Beneath and Battle are so boring that I mostly don't remember them, and what I do remember is mostly of the sort you'd think of if you heard "70s", "SciFi", and "Planet of the Apes" as keywords without knowing about the serious underpinnings.

 

As for the scores, Escape might just be Goldsmith's grooviest score. I wouldn't want to miss it.

 

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Oh, coincidentally from that post I remember something I somehow forgot to write in! The makeup is of course wonky at times and doesn't look much like chimpanzees or orangutans but in some shots the mouth articulation works well, the faces have a lot of personality and let expressions through nicely. I like 'em.

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The Meg (2018)

Just nah. Bigger most certainly does not equal better. Expectedly lackluster. Everything pales in comparison to JAWS- why are people still trying to make shark movies?

 

* and a half * out of ****

 

The Commuter (2018)

One of those "ordinary man, extraordinary circumstances" thrillers. Liam Neeson plays a believable commuter who gets whisked away in a conspiracy plot to kill an unknown person on his train before the last stop, lest his family be killed. I liked Neeson well enough in this, but there's not a great deal of character to the movie, which is the downside. I am always a sucker for a good crash zoom though- great single usage here. Roque Banos' score wasn't bad, but also wasn't memorable. It's not terribly shot either, but it's still in the range of rudimentary. Still enjoyed it more than the above movie. 

 

** and a half * out of ****

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1 hour ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

The Meg (2018)

Just nah. Bigger most certainly does not equal better. Expectedly lackluster. Everything pales in comparison to JAWS- why are people still trying to make shark movies?

 

* and a half * out of ****

The Meg is most certainly not trying to one-up Jaws. It’s a tongue-in-cheek action flick.  

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On 8/15/2019 at 1:10 PM, Alexcremers said:

 

To be honest, the score was the best thing about it. 

 

 

Philippe Rombi is quite good. 

 

That's not Rombi. That's a piece from duo Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Wiltzie, who go by "A Winged Victory for the Sullen", from their album of the same name.

 

Rombi has written some lovely stuff though:

 

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Well, I assumed it was Rombi because he wrote the score, and the above piece appeared three times in the movie. Never heard of A Winged Victory For The Sullen ... It's a band based in Brussels and they write Ambient music for orchestra (or strings rather)?

 

 

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Sometimes directors stumble onto these Euro-minimalist pieces (think Richter, Einaudi, Frahms, Arnalds, even Jóhannsson etc) during the temp-track stage, and then paste it all over the film.

 

I'm somewhat familiar with Dustin O'Hallaran from the duo, but I find most of his stuff way too light and sentimental for my taste (pretty piano noodling over comfortable synth beds). I do like parts of their A Winged Victory For the Sullen album though.

 

And yes, "ambient/pop music for orchestra" is a big selling trend around euro-centric/Icelandic artists right now. People eat that stuff right up.

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15 minutes ago, KK said:

Sometimes directors stumble onto these Euro-minimalist pieces (think Richter, Einaudi, Frahms, Arnalds, even Jóhannsson etc) during the temp-track stage, and then paste it all over the film.

 

 

I can't blame them, orchestral Ambient and film do seem to go well together. The music is often better with images than without.

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5 hours ago, Alexcremers said:

Well, I assumed it was Rombi because he wrote the score, and the above piece appeared three times in the movie.

 

Pro tip: Whenever a piece of music appears at least three times, verbatim, in a film, it's either a non original piece or the film went through post production hell.

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19 hours ago, John said:

Then why attempt to compare it to JAWS?

John, dear boy, I'm so very sorry that what I had to say was disagreeable. All the same, you seem to have a certain dislike for me. I don't quite know why, but I'm sorry that it is this way.

 

I was merely referring to the constant, which is in this case the shark. Yes, it's a misguided, silly point and it's stupid on my part. And there you have it. 

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3 hours ago, Quintus said:

Talk of Dustin O'Hallaran reminded me of this lush piano theme he wrote years ago:

 

 

Talented guy who should have risen up the ranks by now.

 

Meh. The bulk of his work is pretty lukewarm, "pretty piano" stuff. I don't think he really has the chops to reach the upper tier of film composers.

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I like melody and I like pretty piano, and I'll take pretty piano over the nondescript ruminative piano wallpaper that is industrially plastered ad nauseam over seemingly every new movie that comes out these days. Composers and directors who think plink plonk *pause* plink plonk is to gaze into the very heart of the human condition.

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Shazam.

This was really good, a breezy and humorous wish fulfillment story big on heart. It seems cliché to talk about "heart" in relation to movies these days, but with modern crowd pleasers it just isn't a given there's going to be a tangible pulse running through the things anymore. And this big benign wonder is told in a way that refreshingly doesn't push too far into the 2hr+ mark (although the finale did drag out a bit too much). Thoroughly enjoyed it with my kids though (they were thrilled with the characters and story) and so it motivated me to once again try the Marvel marathon (or at least see the good/essential ones). 3.5 out of 5

 

Iron Man 3. 

Although not considered essential (to the bigger arc) I started with this one as I'd already seen the previous two and I seem to remember people at the time saying it was a solid standalone flick. Or did I remember wrong? This was pretty rubbish. A series of completely inconsequential action scenes where CG ragdolls bend and bounce of explosions with nary a scratch or close shave to show for it; a movie entirely bereft of any sense of danger and peril, it was all incredibly boring.

 

That whole thing about the remotely summonable suit parts, flying and fixing perfectly into place on demand, it was just so lazy as plot devices go, and it basically made even mildly suspenseful predicaments feel like going through the motions. Does Tony Stark continue to access this convenient jeopardy clause throughout the rest of the Marvel series? I hope not.

 

And speaking of Stark (and Downey Jr), doesn't anyone else find his smarmy "I've got an effortlessly cool reply to literally anything anybody ever says to me, ever" routine really wearisome after a while? It's as if he's poured just as much cash investment into pioneering snarky comeback research as he has daft flying metal shin guards. Okay, I get that the whole point of his persona is that he's this uber cool billionaire celeb, but a man's man he is not. So yeah, I wasn't really into this movie and it dragged. 2 out of 5

 

Anyway, so it's Winter Soldier next I believe. Can anyone at least confirm that the trivial human ragdoll physics are never abused as much again in these Marvel movies as they were in Iron Man 3? Do the danger stakes ever become really raised enough for me to care about these characters potentially being killed? Or does everyone (including regular humans) always just stand up and dust themselves off?

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I love Robert Downey Junior in this role, and I like the film...fine. It has its saving graces beyond Downey’s persona in the forefront, but It definitely should have been much better. For a film shot by one of the industry’s finest cinematographers (John Toll), it looks...just like any other MCU film, and the same could be said of so many of the production’s other departments.

 

The Winter Soldier’s definitely a grittier film, but personally I don’t think Marvel Studios have ever done gritty spectacularly well. I usually prefer their films when they lean more into comedy.

 

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The Little Stranger (2018)

From director Lenny Abrahamson, it's a vague and ambiguous story of a family cursed by the manor in which they dwell. The appeal here is the unflashy take on horror. The essence of the film is not that it's upfront and scary, in fact there's nothing to be afraid of here. Don't let the R-rating fool you- this is no bloodbath. Domnhall Gleeson is rather emotionless, adding to the cold and unclear air of drama that the film is filled with. Not really sure what to think of it at this point. I fancied some of the lighting though, when it wasn't a dull and cloudy Yates grey. 

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3 hours ago, Quintus said:

I like melody and I like pretty piano, and I'll take pretty piano over the nondescript ruminative piano wallpaper that is industrially plastered ad nauseam over seemingly every new movie that comes out these days. Composers and directors who think plink plonk *pause* plink plonk is to gaze into the very heart of the human condition.

 

Ah but you see, he does a lot of the same plink plonk stuff that you’re condemning here. It’s more vague “pretty” chords than it is beautiful melody.

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