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Curtis Loves Movies [2017] FILM

 

Saturday Night Fever [1977] * * * * *

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Disco was dead. And in 1977, like a zombie virus, Saturday Night Fever resurrected disco's still warm corpse and caused what many would call a cultural apocalypse.

Well, I love disco and I love this movie.

Beneath the flashing lights and disco balls, behind the falsettos and funky bass lines, is a fascinating story of a young man desperately trying to escape the quicksand of his destiny - family dysfunction, a dead-end job, racism, rape, homophobia, and violence. His only reprieve is dancing. But "dancing can't last forever", so he needs another way out.

Metaphorical bridges are just as dangerous as real ones. Stay put where you are or cross to the other side. Fuck around too long in the middle and you die.

Funniest line: "Would ya just watch the hair. Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it. He hits my hair."

 


 

Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Spinout [1966] * * * *

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I came upon Spinout, like most of the Elvis films I watch, by unearthing some moldy soundtrack vinyl online or at the local record emporium. I must admit, unlike most late period Elvis movies, the songs are pretty damn catchy. At least a wee bit more enchanting than that rancid Harum Scarum soundtrack.

The film is an interesting study for a number of reasons, as it attempts to recapture the teeny bopper Elvis kitsch of his earlier films while the youth of America did not give two shits because they were busy smoking weed and experimenting with acid.

If anything this film proves how woefully behind the times The Colonel and his schlock peddlers were. It is however quite amusing to see a puffy-faced, yet still handsome Elvis being forced to comment on fame and groupies in a few sequences that have a strong whiff of A Hard Day's Night. Yet he is still busting out deep poetry about taking his lady swimming and then drying off her back in her "little beach shack" ...yerg.

And what were his young upstart contemporaries up to in 1966? Well just riffing on celebrity Dr. Feelgoods, and the Taxman and the book of the dead on Revolver. Oh by the way, they had already sworn off Elvis-style musicals the year before after only doing two of them (1965's stoned cesspool Help! was one too many).

Still... I can't help falling in love with this one, as Elvis lets a tomboy female play drums in his band and doesn't end up getting the girl. This after an odd attempt at singlehandedly halting the oncoming generational divide freight train by playing America's lovable bachelor uncle. The E-man then proceeds to marry off three generations of women/men while breaking the fourth wall and shamelessly proclaiming his bachelorhood to nobody in particular.

And of course Spinout checks off all the 60s "Elvis musical" boxes that I so crave and desire:

- Casual misogyny... Elvis to hot perky redhead: "Imma take ya ovah ma knee and-a paddle your butt till it's redder than that jalopy!"
- Race cars
- Pool parties
- Barely concealed sexual innuendo... Elvis to older sophisticated blonde: "I seem to be... bumpin' your binoculars" (after an "accidental" crotch graze during a stolen kiss)
- And of course, scooby-doo-esque bumbling slapstick sidekicks

I'm also a sucker for any race car scene where a doofus driver slides into a hay bale and there is a smash cut to the doofus with a mouthful of hay.

But I digress...

To sum up... Spinout is like one of those albums that pops up by your favorite band once they are way past their expiration date that attempts to "get back to the roots" of the band's sound. On the surface you love it... but deep down you know this is just a "dead cat bounce" before obscurity.

So when not-so-tiny Elvis sings "I'll be back" to end the picture I got a pang of melancholy... knowing that his slide would continue until he would briefly and triumphantly return with his '68 special... before once again fading into Bolivian like Mike Tyson and turning into a junkie Meatloaf...

I prefer to remember Elvis casually - and without any hint of irony - singing a song about pussy called "Smorgasbord".

 


 

Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

Only Lovers Left Alive [2013] * * * *

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Ok I realize there really is no reason to watch this other than "let's see what Jarmusch thinks about Vampires"...

And for much of this movie there is a very interesting surface-level camp at play here. The "Undead" as Rock N Roll junkies, the haunted bombed-out husk of Detroit as a back-drop, the fact that good ol' John Q. Dracula must resort to buying blood under the table because he has tried to "evolve" from his ancient barbaric ways...

All of that is well and good, but it wouldn't be Jarmusch if the adrenaline rush of a good genre mashup didn't slowly seep into a snail-paced existential morass (or Einstein's "entanglement" theory as Jarmusch so eloquently uses here).

Like my favorite Jarmusch films (I'm partial to his 90s stuff - "Dead Man" and "Ghost Dog" are classics to me), you get a good spoonful of medicine with your sugar. In this case it's old man John Hurt saving "the last of the good stuff" for our anti-heroes and the 3rd act basically being a meditation on human gluttony vs. pure survival.

What do we truly need to survive? Technology? ...Art? ...Love? ...Material possessions? Is the 21st century the age where we as a species slurp up the "last of the good stuff"?

If you had a thousand lives to live and you saw how the human condition is so completely doomed to repeating the mistakes of the past... how would that mold and change you? Would you just become an introverted, nihilistic recluse? Would you become Sisyphus and repeatedly try in vain to stay positive and engaged despite others being too dumb to see their own hideous path? Would you ever have that Bill Murray Groundhog Day moment when the light bulb goes on?

I honestly don't know what I would do... but it is clear when faced with our own demise we will ultimately choose survival. How we do that is the key. Do we wait too long so we are forced to feed on the weak? Or do we act to neuter our gluttony and have the slightest hope of changing the outcome ahead?

Jarmusch is a master of taking his films to the brink of cheese island and then holding you hostage while the seedy underbelly of subtext whips you repeatedly with a wet noodle.

All I can say is, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

 


 

Chad S. Walsky [2017] FILM

 

Come Together [2016] *

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I'm pretty sure Wes Anderson could shit in his hat and critics would line up to give it 5 stars. It's been all downhill since "Steve Zissou" if you ask me.

 


 

Biscoito18 [2017] FILM

 

Justice League [2017] * * *

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All the drama around the DCEU films is exhausting, but talking about the film itself, "Justice League" (as well as "Wonder Woman") is a classic movie of superheroes, for better or worse.

The villain and his plan of global destruction are basic and the film follows the same structure of other action blockbusters.

In one of the best moments of the film (my favorite scene), we again heard the question: "Do you bleed?" Unfortunately, just like in all the other recent superhero movies that aren't "Deadpool" or "Logan", no one here bleeds.

This usually doesn't bother me, but the film has an exciting and brutal sequence involving the wonderful amazons of Themyscira who would've benefited greatly from some blood dripping here and there. Even more so taking into account the huge ax that the villain uses as a weapon. The lack of blood doesn't exclude the violence of the scene, but it certainly diminishes its impact.

The construction of the group action scenes unfortunately isn't very fluid and doesn't delimit well the scenarios, but, even so, most scenes are amusing and are full of interesting little moments.

The CGI, which was one of my concerns after watching some clips released, surprisingly didn't bother or distract me at any point during the film. I don't know if it was the 3D, but I really found the CGI quite well made and competent. I saw no great defects, not even in relation to the digitized face of the villain.

Overall, the greatest achievement of "Justice League" is precisely at the crux of the whole project: the dynamics between the characters.

Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman have chemistry together, while retaining their particular characteristics. The integration between them is practical, quick and doesn't seem forced as the almost instant friendship between members of the Suicide Squad for example.

In the second scene with the quintet gathered in Batman's cave, I could already feel the atmosphere of familiarity between them.

One of the main ones responsible for this is Ezra Miller's Flash, who steals the scene several times. Most of his jokes are good and, in general, the character works because he maintains his personality throughout the film. It's not just moments of relaxation. He really is like that, kind of weird, immature, and he's making jokes because he's actually nervous about all that's happening around him.

Cyborg also impressed me with its practicality and maturity despite its age. He isn't rude but he also doesn't suck anyone's dick. I like the first encounter between him and Wonder Woman where she does a perfect read of the confusion of emotions in his head.

Aquaman has some good moments of interaction with Batman, but in general ends up being the new character that least impacted me. In fact, his strength lies in his "badass" appearance and posture, and Momoa can convey that easily. I like the scene where he appears "surfing" over a winged demon while in free fall with his long hair swinging in the wind like a rockstar.

Batman remains an old pessimistic and stubborn dog. I already liked Ben Affleck's version in "Batman vs Superman" but here he reaches the perfect spot.

His cynical yet fair personality generates a wary admiration. His self-criticism jokes work, too. I also liked the frequency with which Albert appears, always just helping the group without stealing the focus for himself.

I hope the rumors that Affleck is thinking of quitting the character are fake because his Batman is already my favorite among live-action versions.

Wonder Woman is the foundation of the group and Gal Gadot again shines as the character. Pure charisma even when she's angry.

Her traumas in relation to the losses suffered in her solo film and her abstention from the rest of the world for so long are brought to the surface and she recognizes her own faults and tries to correct them like a true leader.

In fact, all the characters have to overcome some emotional problem, be it the lack of responsibility, errors of judgment in the past, or accepting that it's time to cut the umbilical cord and move on. And I thank the film for not getting too much into these dramas and making it a repetitive experience like it was with "Batman vs Superman" and "Man of Steel" at times.

Superman also received the dignified treatment he deserves.

Classical personality, straightforward, without dramatic exaggerations, without wasting too much time with Lois and Martha and mainly functioning as the "special weapon" of the group.

In fewer doses, the character ends up being valued precisely for what he is (a "perfect" being of pure power, unbeatable and far superior to others), instead of modifying the whole world around or invoking ridiculous motives to restrain the character for being what he is.

I also enjoyed the fast pace that left the film more focused on being a fun adventure than trying to be innovative or end up taking itself too seriously.

In addition, the quick editing also facilitated the creation of a familiarity between the characters and the audience. Besides not taking too long before bringing them together, it also made these scenes not so "anticipated" or "special" within the film. They simply happened without warning and moved on. This created a feeling that, after half an hour, you were already accustomed to accompany them.

And if you think about it, we, who grow up watching the cartoons, are already accustomed to them. For this reason I disagree with some people who think the solo films should have been released before this one. We already have their background.

Any necessary presentation of new details of these new versions had enough time to be made here.

"Justice League" has a classic adventurous atmosphere with a charismatic cast (notably Ezra Miller, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot), a quick editing without too many detours, some good moments of relaxation (without becoming a forced humor show), and with a good dynamic between the characters.

It's another good chapter of the DCEU this year.

 


 

Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

The Eagle Huntress [2016] * * *

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If there is anything to take away from this film, it's that this 13 year old girl is so much more of a man than I am. Despite my best efforts in recent months, I have proved unsuccessful in my numerous attempts to grow a Dumbledore beard, but I'm sure if this girl put her mind to it, she'd have one before the rest of the boys in her class hit puberty. All the Master Eagle Hunters would be reading off the cue cards the director gave them like,

"No, women are only meant to cook my macaroni, they can't grow beards."

But then she'd bust through the wall because only little bitch men use the door, and pistol whip all their stupid eagles with her Dumbledore beard, and then her eagle would swoop in and pick out their eyes and eat them, because she don't play no games, and neither does that eagle. Christ that thing is terrifying.

This has the story of an Academy Award-winning film, and the filmmaking of something on the Discovery Channel.

Ok it's not that bad but literally all of the camera work is just pretty shots of the mountains and nothing else. And what is up with Daisy Ridley randomly interjecting three or four times in the movie with a voiceover? That was pretty weird. A lot of the feminist stuff feels staged too, but I wouldn't put it past a couple of grumpy old men in the mountains of Mongolia to be sexist. Oh well. This reminds me of "Nanook of the North". That's a great movie. I think I will go watch that documentary about Middle Eastern cats that came out last year.

 


 

Isaak von Seggern [2017] FILM

 

Funny Games [1997] * * * *

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I was sure the big reveal in the third act would be them busting out Monopoly as the funniest game.

Shit always gets crazy when you bust out Monopoly.

These two need to play Chutes & Ladders or Go Fish I think to take some of the edge off.

 


 

Swartacus [2017] FILM

 

The Doors [1991] * * * *

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There aren't many directors in Hollywood history who were as prolific or as thought-provoking as Oliver Stone was from 1986-1991. "Platoon", "Wall Street", "Talk Radio", "Born on the 4th of July"... and topped off with not one, but TWO classics in 1991: "JFK" and "The Doors".

Ollie put his stamp on that period more than any other before or since. I don't think I've seen any other director more in tune with the pulse of his generation than Stone.

This is his blessing and his curse... as he has grown hopelessly out of touch as the years have rolled on (much like the rest of his baby boomer generation).

Stone used Morrison as a cipher for the "death of the hippie dream" and that annoyed many Doors purists then and still to this day. Ollie took many liberties in this film including adding a couple mysterious Indians that follow Jim around and lead him to his death. Many people flat-out hate this, I've gone back and forth over the years on it. During my heavy drinking days of my youth, where I would stagger back to the dorms after a night of binge drinking awful stale Busch light kegs, I would usually finish the night getting stoned out of my gourd with my friend Pat and a shitty VHS copy of "The Doors". The trippier aspects of this film hold up quite well (as shot by Tarantino's coke wizard Robert Richardson). The transition from Morrison walking into the cave and then the music transporting us to The Doors playing The End at The Whisky is still pretty damn awesome. I think this is where Ollie should have left the Indians... he goes overboard like he did with the football game in Texas Stadium during "Any Given Sunday". But that's part of Ollie's charm isn't it?? So you can see how I am torn.

In all honesty it's the music and the out of this world performance of Val Kilmer that keep this Ollie lark relevant after all these years (don't get me started on how bad Meg Ryan and Kathleen Quinlan are). Kilmer is transcendent here and it's too bad Stone couldn't slow himself down and extend the "origin story" of the first half of the film (the second half is basically like watching Nic Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas"... unforgiving in its portrayal of excess, almost to the point of absurdity).

I will say this... when Ollie sets his mind to it he can direct the piss out of action sequences. The live concert scenes in this film are fucking amazing, the Miami show where Jim jumps in the crowd is perhaps one of the best depictions of how a lead singer can direct the mood of a crowd I've ever seen in fictionalized form. It still gives me chills when a bearded Jimbo incites a boob riot on stage, goes into the "dead cat, dead rat" intro to "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" and then suddenly appears in the crowd. The energy is palpable and I don't think anyone but Kilmer, Stone, and the coke wizard could have pulled something off quite like it.

I used to tell my wife... every college freshman goes through their "Doors phase" and I bet there are still Morrison posters hanging in dorm rooms to this day. My phase lasted from roughly the fall of 1994 to the summer of 1995. Then I forgot about old Jimbo for a stretch... but his pretentious, riotous ghost will always be lurking... forever inciting the youth to try the Road to Excess route. It's too bad he couldn't stick around long enough to see his own Palace of Wisdom come to fruition.

As for Ollie and the rest of the Boomers... America may have the guns, but the Boomers still have the numbers (like Mr. Mojo Risin' announced so prophetically in the song "Five to One"). It would be interesting if we could freeze some hippies in a time capsule from 1969, thaw them out, and show them what they've become. The walking embodiment of excess and materialism, raging against themselves and electing a billionaire who will protect what's left of their hypocritical empire.

Get together one more time indeed...

 


 

jmunky [2017] TV

 

Fargo: Season 1 [2014] * * * *

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Minnesota seems nice.

 


 

jmunky [2017] TV

 

Fargo: Season 2 [2015] * * * * *

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Believe it or not, Kirsten Dunst's character Peggy is my girlfriend. She really is. A carbon copy. Whenever I look in the garage I worry.

 


 

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