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Author Topic: The Movie Thread Reloaded  (Read 42979 times)

Stephen Tannhauser

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The Movie Thread Reloaded
« Reply #375 on: July 11, 2020, 01:32:17 am »
So I watched the Netflix movie of The Old Guard with my wife today, and she enjoyed it more than I did.

Pluses: Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor are never not watchable, and the main villain character is a not unentertaining turn by actor Harry Melling, whom everyone knows as Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter movies.  Newcomer Kiki Layne is not bad, if a little lightweight, and those who like action choreography for its own sake will find much good work here. And the theme of the movie -- that people do more good than they know -- is uplifting, if a touch clumsily executed.

Minuses: Several, unfortunately.

First: If the primary plot point of your protagonists is that they're immortal to all normal threats, then you have to come up with something that threatens them in some way for the story to engage us. Immortals fighting mortals is boring by definition because you know your heroes can't possibly lose, which is exactly why Highlander was exciting where Guard's fights are just dull (unless you're a fight-choreography junkie). If your heroes can't be personally hurt, then threaten something they care enough about that that's worse, which would have been easier had these characters been given enough personality to have such people or things in their life.

Second: If the villain doesn't start out with a personal connection to the heroes, he'd better acquire one damn quick to make the story interesting. Melling does the best he can with his villain role but his problem is that he really doesn't care anything about who our immortal crew are, or have anything personal against them beyond their natural reluctance to be his guinea pigs for reverse-engineering immortality.  As a result the fights are basically exercises in choreography and nothing more.

Third: If the audience can think of a simple and more effective tactic against the heroes than any the villain uses, requiring only what the villain already knows, then the villain is a dull villain. If your immortals can cut down entire squadrons with their blades while ignoring firearms, then do not get near them -- stay out of range, use tear gas, Tasers and tranq darts.

Fourth: The great thing about the immortals of Highlander was that, even though we never knew where they truly came from or why they had to fight for the Prize (I am ignoring HIGHLANDER II here, but doesn't everyone?), the simple fact that there was a Prize and a fight they couldn't escape put a forward motion on all their life-arcs, no matter what else they did. The immortals of Old Guard don't seem to have any reason for their existence, and no reason for the only possible way they appear to be able to die: [SPOILER]One day, with no warning or predictability, their immortality simply "runs out" and they start aging again and will die if lethally wounded like anyone else. (I asked my wife, "Doesn't decapitation work? What happens then, does the head grow a new body or the body grow a new head?")[/SPOILER] Also, the immortals we see on screen are, with one or two exceptions, all there ever are or have been; the story deliberately cuts off any hint of a larger, mysterious world.

Fifth: I loathe the SJ advocacy movement with a passion for putting these thought patterns in my brain, but they're there now, and I cannot help notice: Of our five immortals, the one who turns out to be a traitor to the group is, predictably, the lone straight white guy of the bunch, and the gay couple who've been lovers for a thousand years also happen to have been on opposite sides in the Crusades. My good faith that such choices aren't a not-so-subtle "eff you" to certain viewers has, sadly, declined in recent years.

Final score: 1.5/5 solely on visual style and good acting jobs from Charlize and Chiwetel. If you really want a good story about immortals go back and watch your Highlander DVD.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 01:49:17 am by Stephen Tannhauser »
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Ratman_tf

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The Movie Thread Reloaded
« Reply #376 on: July 11, 2020, 02:13:44 am »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1139056
Final score: 1.5/5 solely on visual style and good acting jobs from Charlize and Chiwetel. If you really want a good story about immortals go back and watch your Highlander DVD.

Yeah. There's so much stuff to sift through on Netflix. When I browsed and saw this title's summary, I was like, "Eh, I'll just re-watch Highlander."
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Spike

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« Reply #377 on: July 13, 2020, 09:49:26 am »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1139056


Fifth: I loathe the SJ advocacy movement with a passion for putting these thought patterns in my brain, but they're there now, and I cannot help notice: Of our five immortals, the one who turns out to be a traitor to the group is, predictably, the lone straight white guy of the bunch, and the gay couple who've been lovers for a thousand years also happen to have been on opposite sides in the Crusades. My good faith that such choices aren't a not-so-subtle "eff you" to certain viewers has, sadly, declined in recent years.

.


This point right here is pretty much why I've all but stopped watching... everything. Well, everything American, anyway... though its not like I'm an expert on finding new and exciting korean films (Not, you know, that I've seen a bad one), or what not.

Though I will admit to breaking down and, though this is the movie thread, I'll cheat and bring up TV, I just watched season one of Lucifer.  I'll probably watch season two, at least.  Its not... good exactly... but I like how it almost hints at an actually thought out metaphysics, and... unlike a lot of religious themed stuff out of hollywood actually seems to treat the subject with a modicum of respect.  I dunno, I get weird when it comes to religion in writing: There is a fine line between juvenile mockery and pedantic literalism where really good storytelling and though provoking ideas can exist and I feel Lucifer actually threaded that needle.

I mean as much as I enjoyed Legion (just to name an example), its utter lack of respect for the mythology it was treading on made it also far more painfully stupid than it needed to be, which is why I never really want to rewatch it. Ruined any deeper meaning the conflict between... was it Michael and Gabriel?... over how to best obey God that the movie wanted to have.

Back to Lucifer though: Weirdly enough, Its not the main two characters (Lucifer, who is by turns charming and annoyingly overdone, and Chloe Decker, the mortal woman who (Spoiler!) love will redeem him (or whatever...) that make the show work. Its the psychiatrist.  The devil's therapist.  That shit's a riot.
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Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #378 on: July 13, 2020, 02:56:22 pm »
Quote from: Spike;1139463
I will admit to breaking down ... I just watched season one of Lucifer.  I'll probably watch season two, at least.  Its not... good exactly... but I like how it almost hints at an actually thought out metaphysics, and... unlike a lot of religious themed stuff out of hollywood actually seems to treat the subject with a modicum of respect.  I dunno, I get weird when it comes to religion in writing: There is a fine line between juvenile mockery and pedantic literalism where really good storytelling and though provoking ideas can exist and I feel Lucifer actually threaded that needle.

Well, as a practicing (though very far from perfect) Roman Catholic I have to admit that when it comes to religion, I prefer erring towards pedantic literalism (or what I call, y'know, "getting it right"). So I unsurprisingly don't have the same good opinion of the show's philosophy. In my experience the only reason anybody starts a story with the idea of, "What if the Devil wasn't really evil?" is so that they can immediately play with the logical follow-up idea, "And what if that meant God wasn't really good or perfect, either?" as a way to delegitimize any particular plank the writers dislike in traditional religion.

That said, I agree with you that it's the supporting characters that make the show watchable despite itself -- my wife quite enjoyed the first three seasons and thus I found myself seeing more of it than I would have chosen on my own hook -- and that Rachael Harris's therapist character is a hoot. (I must admit to really disliking Mazikeen, though; I acknowledge not being familiar with all her arcs, so this is possibly an unfair evaluation, but she sticks in my mind mostly in the two modes of "smug bitch" or "abusive bitch", and I've never liked either type.)
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Spike

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« Reply #379 on: July 13, 2020, 09:05:54 pm »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1139525
Well, as a practicing (though very far from perfect) Roman Catholic I have to admit that when it comes to religion, I prefer erring towards pedantic literalism (or what I call, y'know, "getting it right"). So I unsurprisingly don't have the same good opinion of the show's philosophy. In my experience the only reason anybody starts a story with the idea of, "What if the Devil wasn't really evil?" is so that they can immediately play with the logical follow-up idea, "And what if that meant God wasn't really good or perfect, either?" as a way to delegitimize any particular plank the writers dislike in traditional religion.


Well, I come at it from a generally atheistic-strongly agnostic perspective, I accept the unknowable as unknowable and I am deeply cynical that any organization run by men (or women, if you need that pedantic clarification) that proclaims to know the absolute truth is inherently flawed and corrupt, or at least will become corrupt VERY quickly.   Personally, I find there are plenty of hints in the old testament that 'The Devil' is more a job than the traditional stories of The Fall would indicate.   I prefer my fictional depictions of God to remain more unknowable for just the reason you state. I'm reminded of the Clips on  Youtube I've seen from Supernatural when Chuck reveals himself to be God... I found the Winchesters reactions to be very well handled, all told, but the depiction of God (as Chuck) to be so far from the mark that I was glad I had stopped watching the show many many seasons earlier.



Quote
That said, I agree with you that it's the supporting characters that make the show watchable despite itself -- my wife quite enjoyed the first three seasons and thus I found myself seeing more of it than I would have chosen on my own hook -- and that Rachael Harris's therapist character is a hoot. (I must admit to really disliking Mazikeen, though; I acknowledge not being familiar with all her arcs, so this is possibly an unfair evaluation, but she sticks in my mind mostly in the two modes of "smug bitch" or "abusive bitch", and I've never liked either type.)


At least in Season 1 Mazikeen has nothing to do but be generally a bitch, which I suppose is a flaw in having an otherwise excellent supporting cast... someone gets the shaft. I thought her character arc was doing well, with her relationship with... amendola?... until she said something dumb about being used as a pawn by 'both of them'... utterly missing the fact that she OFFERED to be a pawn to Lucifer a whole... two episodes... earlier? AFTER she'd seduced the angel.  Then there was the wasted opportunity of her having stolen one of Lucifer's feathers in secret...

So yeah, I agree that Mazikeen isn't really a likeable character, beyond a few fun moments (mostly, again, with the therapist).

I will say that I am curious about your take on the Father Frank episode, as a Roman Catholic. I found it to be one of the highlights of the season, and a reason to 'trust' these writers not to be too... blasphemous?... with the show's premise.  Better to say that they seem to be as respectful as their premise allows, I suppose.
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Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #380 on: July 14, 2020, 12:30:27 am »
Quote from: Spike;1139603
Personally, I find there are plenty of hints in the old testament that 'The Devil' is more a job than the traditional stories of The Fall would indicate.

Granted; the word "satan" was after all a term for an adversary rather than a name per se. Nonetheless, much like your own (and not unmerited) cynicism about human organizations whose people get more concerned with being right -- or worse, looking right -- rather than teaching by example what is right, I admit to the same cynicism about any storyteller who wants to "subvert traditional imagery of good and evil"; I've never seen that fail to end up anywhere except calling good evil and evil good, to which the Bible promises only woe.

Quote
I am curious about your take on the Father Frank episode, as a Roman Catholic. I found it to be one of the highlights of the season, and a reason to 'trust' these writers not to be too... blasphemous?... with the show's premise.  Better to say that they seem to be as respectful as their premise allows, I suppose.

I actually enjoyed the Father Frank episode immensely. But that only made it all the more disappointing when they failed to follow up on any of its implications.

If I'd been running that show, I would have had Father Frank come back as a saint, and had a lot of fun with the conflicts between him and Amenadiel about their different approaches to facing evil despite being nominally on the same "side".
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Omega

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« Reply #381 on: July 14, 2020, 06:11:49 am »
Watched the Riverworld movie. Oddly enough for a SyFy movie its not bad really. But then I know only the basics of the book. Production values were actually not bad. Acting was not bad overall. My main irk is it feels like alot of the draw of the book is missing from the movie. That and for some reason the main protagonist of the book is in the movie the villain? I really hate that. Same when they did that with John Carter.

Speaking of John Carter. Finally had a look at Asylum's John Carter of Mars movie. You know things are bad when a low budget tag-along movie is somehow vaugly closer to the source than the big budget version. Both though take various liberties with the story and characters.

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« Reply #382 on: July 21, 2020, 03:59:12 pm »
Quote from: Omega;1139679
Watched the Riverworld movie. Oddly enough for a SyFy movie its not bad really. But then I know only the basics of the book. Production values were actually not bad. Acting was not bad overall. My main irk is it feels like alot of the draw of the book is missing from the movie. That and for some reason the main protagonist of the book is in the movie the villain? I really hate that. Same when they did that with John Carter.

Speaking of John Carter. Finally had a look at Asylum's John Carter of Mars movie. You know things are bad when a low budget tag-along movie is somehow vaugly closer to the source than the big budget version. Both though take various liberties with the story and characters.

The Asylum mockbuster of Battleship is supposedly better done than the original film. I cannot offer direct testimony as I've seen neither film.

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« Reply #383 on: July 23, 2020, 06:57:52 pm »
Quote from: Ghostmaker;1141059
The Asylum mockbuster of Battleship is supposedly better done than the original film. I cannot offer direct testimony as I've seen neither film.

I liked Battleship. It's like a Michael Bay film (it's obviously made to copy his 'style') but about half as obnoxious.

Can't comment on the Asylum version.
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« Reply #384 on: July 26, 2020, 07:05:46 am »
I've seen American Warships and its... ok. Better than some Asylum movies. Same for their Giant robot movie. Its still an Asylum movies though so set your bar low before going in.

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« Reply #385 on: July 26, 2020, 12:15:51 pm »
Quote from: Omega;1141782
I've seen American Warships and its... ok. Better than some Asylum movies. Same for their Giant robot movie. Its still an Asylum movies though so set your bar low before going in.

I often have Asylum movies or something like them playing in the background when I'm doing prep work for my games (or completing payroll audits). They have some vaguely interesting moments, but rarely anything that keeps me so interested that they distract me from what I'm really working on.

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« Reply #386 on: August 03, 2020, 10:13:55 am »
Transformers, War for Cybertron

Since the TV thread slid off the front page, and I can't find it.

I'm up to episode 2, and have a few opinions.
It's... not baaaad. I'm not going to say it's great. The CGI is ok, the animation is odd. A lot of watching robots sashay around swinging their hips conspicuously. Weird thing to notice, but I did.
Dialog and writing is very, very bland. Characters all sound pretty much the same. It's a very down, mopey version of Transformers that takes itself a little too seriously for my tastes.
Set during the end of the Great War, the Transformers are sick of fighting, but don't want to surrender or give up. Optimus is trying to keep his battle weary forces together, while Megatron initiates a plan concocted by his science officer, Shockwave to do a dirty and end the war through a fitting evil scheme.

I like the nuance, of course. Just because it's a kid's IP, doesn't mean they can't tell interesting stories. The music and sound effects are very bland.

I plan to finish the first season over the next few days. I'm watching one a day. But like most Transformer-centric stories, I think it appeals mostly to the die hard fans. Casuals who want to drop in and see what it's all about are likely to be put off by depressing CGI robots bitching about how sucky their robot lives have become.
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« Reply #387 on: August 03, 2020, 11:19:06 am »
The transformers in this one look very much like the toys, excepting a few (like Ratchet, Jetfire and Bumblebee that all look like the old cartoon).

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« Reply #388 on: August 04, 2020, 06:16:00 am »
Speaking of Transformers
About 2 decades ago at GenCon I picked up some fan translated VHS tapes of the first couple of episodes for Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo. Two transformers anime that far as I know still havent made it to the US.

Beast Wars II is interesting in it follows a set of warriors from a different group who are dealing with a new batch of villains with machine theme vs the heroes with the beast theme. LEad by Leo Convoy on one side and Galvatron and his brother Megatron on the other. Good animation and lots of different stuff going on each episode. Not sure who the two moon goddesses are. Certainly better than the awful Beast Machines.

Beast Wars Neo is an odd one. Really odd. Follows a bunch of students who get a new leader Big Convoy and travel from planet to planet searching for errant energy capsules and opposing a bunch of dinosaur themed villains. This one seems aimed at a slightly younger audience. Good animation and at least the stories are varied.

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« Reply #389 on: August 16, 2020, 10:22:46 am »
man transformers was nice, they just had to stop like few movies before !!!!
they kept it going for too long