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Paul MacLean
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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3061 Post by Paul MacLean » Mon Sep 04, 2017 4:04 pm

Konichiwa...

Been watching a lot of Japanese movies (and couple of remakes of Japanese movies) recently...

Zatoichi vs. Yojimbo *1/2

Although the Zatoichi movies were immensely popular in Japan (apparently there were 26 in all), I had never seen any of them until now. However it was really Toshiro Mifune (rather than Zatoichi star Shintaro Katsu) who piqued my interest in watching this film. Despite the title however, Mifune is not playing "Yojimbo" from Kurosawa's films, but a self-serving thug who is nothing like that character ("Yojimbo" actually means "bodyguard", so it would be like casting Harrison Ford as someone called "Archaeologist" who wears a fedora and carries a whip, in an attempt to sucker-in Indiana Jones fans).

In any case, I quit on this film halfway through. Its plot (if you can call it that) is vague and convoluted. The film is also slow, and for a movie which is ostensibly an "action" film, there is little of it. Maybe the second half is one of the greatest action movies ever made, but I couldn't stick around to find out.


Hunter in the Dark *

Another convoluted bore, this one involving Tatsuya Nakadai (who had starring roles in several of Kurosawa's pictures) as a yakuza who...I don't know...this script was also very convoluted, and involved a high-born Samurai with amnesia. I gave-up on this halfway through as well. This being from 1979, there was also a lot of embarrassingly gratuitous nudity. Decent score by Masaru Sato though.


The Magnificent Seven **1/2

Despite owning the soundtrack since the mid 80s (well, technically it was the "Return of the Magnificent Seven" album) I actually never sat down to view this film until a few weeks ago. Given its reputation, I have to admit I didn't think it was especially great.

Kurosawa's original is an impossible act to follow of course; however, comparing the two films is hard to avoid. Despite the fact Seven Samurai was itself influenced by American westerns, there is much in Kurosawa's film which ironically doesn't transfer well to the old west. The idea of Samurai offering to help beleaguered peasants carries a lot more weight than hired guns doing likewise. Feudal Japan had an astringent class system -- where Samurai had the right to execute on the spot any peasant who did not bow to them. Thus, Samurai risking (and giving) their lives to protect people of a lower class is a hugely impressive and poignant gesture. The gunslingers in The Magnificent Seven take pity on the defenseless (well, except for the fellow who is led to believe there is goldmine near the village) -- but the Samurai of Kurosawa's film exhibit greater altruism, because in their culture, no one would bat an eye if they ignored the plight of those who are "beneath" them.

In Seven Samurai, the character of Kambei shows unexpected compassion and humility when he risks his life to save a peasant baby from a Bandit -- which suggests to the farmers he might be sympathetic to their predicament. In The Magnificent Seven, the peasants are impressed by Chris Adams because he escorts a casket containing the body of an unpopular man to a cemetery -- hardly as impressive an act as Kambei's.

In Seven Samurai, Kyuzo is a stoic, undefeatable swordsman, and one of the greatest in the land. Thus, his death at the hands of a gunman is bitterly ironic. There is no equivalent in The Magnificent Seven -- what irony is there when a gunman is killed by another gunman?

The grateful peasants in The Magnificent Seven also bid farewell to the surviving gunmen as they depart; in Seven Samurai, the farmers ignore their saviors, apparently hoping they will just leave (a reference to the way in which soldiers are historically venerated in wartime, but shunned once the battles are over).

I will say that the cast of The Magnificent Seven is enormously impressive. Yul Brynner is fantastic, as is Eli Wallach, and it's not hard to see why so many of the supporting players -- McQueen, Vaughan, Bronson, Coburn -- went on to be stars in their own right. And who doesn't agree Elmer Bernstein's score is one of the greatest of all time? (Jerry Goldsmith considered The Magnificent Seven the best western score ever written -- a compliment that is hard to refute.) However, I'd rate this picture as a "pretty good" western, but not a classic.


A Fistful of Dollars **

Sergio Leone's remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, which I also never actually sat down to watch until recently. I have to say it too pales in comparison to the original. Clint Eastwood is great (as always), but again, so much is lost transforming a samurai into a gunslinger. The spectacular climax of Yojimbo, where Toshiro Mifune -- armed with a sword and knife -- defeats gun-wielding Tatsuya Nakadai, is one of the great action scenes in cinema history. But it doesn't work nearly as well when you remove the sword from the equation. (Plus wouldn't the gunmen eventually realize Eastwood has some kind of metal shield under his poncho, and just shoot him in the head?)

Excellent Ennio Morricone score however.


Unforgiven (Japanese remake) *1/2

Unforgiven is certainly one of Clint Eastwood's best films, and as a fan of Japanese movies (and a martial artist myself) I was overwhelmingly excited to hear that a Japanese remake was in the works -- with no less than Ken Watanabe in the lead. Unfortunately this film is a total dud. It just lacks energy, and there's little to draw the viewer in. There's not much else to say, except that remaking American westerns into Samurai movies doesn't appear to work very well either. A huge disappointment.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3062 Post by Paul MacLean » Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:54 pm

Zodiac **

Eh. A somewhat interesting story -- but the plot gets convoluted, with too many characters, too many suspects and too many tangents. On top of that the story doesn't resolve in particularly satisfying way. I realize Zodiac is "a true story", but even pictures based on true stories often need to combine two or more characters into one, and excise (or even alter) details in the service of narrative cohesion. The film also relies a lot on CGI -- some of which is very convincing; other shots look thoroughly unreal (particularly some of the car interiors -- you'd think they could have just used a real car with a camera mount). However, the film is superbly well-acted, with not a missed note in any performance (Robert Downey, jr. in particular stands out).

David Shire's score is effective, but essentially themeless (no doubt on orders from David Fincher -- odd that he would hire a composer who won an Oscar for "Best Song" and then tell him not to write any themes).

Fincher is a fine director, but I often get the sense from his films that he thinks he is a better and more important filmmaker than he actually is. Zodiac certainly held my interest, but it's more an exercise in style than substance, and often feels like a slick, overlong episode of Dragnet.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3063 Post by Paul MacLean » Fri Sep 15, 2017 11:34 pm

Been taking in some more Japanese movies...

Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior **1/2

Akira Kurosawa's sometimes-impressive but clunky samurai epic from 1980. The film features Tatsuya Nakadai in two roles -- that of the warlord Takeda Shingen, and a common thief whose uncanny resemblance to the Shingen results in his being hired as a double (for use in hazardous situations where the lord's safety might be at risk). When Shingen is felled in battle, his brother and closest advisors decide to enlist the double to impersonate the lord for a period of three years, owing to the current political instability of Takeda clan (which would be at risk of disintegrating were it suddenly leaderless).

The script is excellent, and a fine work of historical fiction -- Takeda Shingen was a real warlord (though his impersonation after his death by a double is fictionalized). The thief skillfully assumes the role of the lord, even fooling Shingen's mistresses, as well as his young grandson. And as the thief is by nature a gentler and more compassionate man then Shingen, he forms a close bond with Shingen's grandson which was never possible for the real lord. The thief also comes to win the respect of those few (the high-ranking generals and Shingen's bodyguards) who are aware he is a figurehead and imposter. Inevitably, the three years come to an end -- with tragic results for both the thief and the Takeda clan.

Unfortunately, Kagemusha is very uneven film, which is disappointing for a picture made by someone of Kurosawa's stature. There are some immensely strong elements, but considerable flaws as well. The battle scenes have an almost claustrophobic quality, with limited coverage, and despite legions of costumed extras, don't look and feel as "epic" as one feels they ought. Apart from being disappointing, it is just odd to see this in a film by a man who had one of the greatest faculties for staging action of any director ever.

In fairness, production difficulties plagued this movie, in which Kurosawa originally cast Shintaro Katsu (star of the Zatoichi movies) as the thief / warlord — and then fired him the first day of shooting after an on-set row. Also, the supporting cast is populated by a number of well-known Japanese television actors, whose performances are occasionally hammy. Perhaps Kurosawa needed familiar faces to get funding, I don't know, but they do let the air of of the film a bit (and I suspect the presence of so many TV actors gave Japanese audiences the same feeling Americans got from watching The Bastard! :lol: ).

I'm sorry to say one of the most detrimental faults of the film is the score by Shinichiro Ikebe. Although unassailably well-written (Ikebe is an accomplished classical composer), dramatically it is a disaster. Apart from a few moments of effectively subdued, elegiac string-writing, the score is more often overly frenetic, loud and over-the-top, and renders a number of sequences unintentionally funny. The aftermath of the final battle features a trumpet soloist who plays with so much vibrato, it almost sounds like the theme from Chinatown (and destroys the scene).

I imagine the enthusiasm for Kagemusha must have been running high prior to its release. It was Kurosawa's first film in five years (and the first film featuring Samurai he'd made in eighteen). Being released under the prestigious banner of "George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola Present" must have generated considerable anticipation as well. Nakadai is wonderful in the film (it's hard to imagine Katsu would have been better), but despite some elements of true greatness, Kagemusha does not, in my estimation, number among Kurosawa's better work. Happily the director would acquit himself five years later with Ran (which proved arguably as great a film as Seven Samurai -- and was thankfully scored by Toru Takemitsu).

In all, I'd still rate Kagemusha as worth watching, but it does bear the earmarks of a "troubled production" and a director who is a bit out of practice.


High and Low ****

One of Kurosawa's non-historic movies, and one which, despite a Japanese setting, has universal themes which could take place in any culture. Toshiro Mifune plays a wealthy (and self-made) business owner, Kingo Gondo, who is threatened by a hostile takeover by the board of directors of his company. Having anticipated this eventuality, Gondo has shrewdly put money aside to buy the majority of his company's stock, and thus retain control. However, he receives a call from a kidnapper who says he has abducted Gondo's young son, and is demanding a ransom of millions. Entirely willing to pay the ransom with the funds he was going to use to save his company, Gondo suddenly finds himself in a troubling moral dilemma, when it is revealed that his son is safe -- and that the kidnappers abducted the son of his chauffeur by mistake.

High and Low is a riveting film, which operates on many levels -- morality play, thriller, mystery, an exploration of ethical obligations, and it offers perceptive observations about class and haves vs. have-nots. Made in the early 60s, during the most inspired period of Kurosawa's career, the writing, direction and acting are all up to the high standard one expects from this era of the director's output. Highly recommended!

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3064 Post by mkaroly » Sat Sep 16, 2017 12:22 pm

HIGH AND LOW is an outstanding film...agreed Paul!

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3065 Post by AndyDursin » Sun Sep 17, 2017 11:04 pm

BENEATH THE 12 MILE REEF

Oh man is this movie AWFUL.

Herrmann's score is great and all, and Twilight Time's Blu looks and sounds great, but what a dated if not laughable product of it's time.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3066 Post by esteban miranda » Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:21 am

AndyDursin wrote:
Sun Sep 17, 2017 11:04 pm
BENEATH THE 12 MILE REEF

Oh man is this movie AWFUL.

Herrmann's score is great and all, and Twilight Time's Blu looks and sounds great, but what a dated if not laughable product of it's time.
I saw this for the first time a little over a year ago.
Certainly the Herrmann score is it's greatest asset, but it's like a Technicolor, Cinemascope B movie. Nothing great, but I've seen worse...

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3067 Post by esteban miranda » Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:32 am

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - 3/5

First time I've seen it at the theater since...1982.
Loved it when I was 18. Liked it when I was 23. It's still good but the final 15 minutes are the payoff and it takes a long time to get there.
John Williams' score is 80% of the enjoyment.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3068 Post by Paul MacLean » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:06 pm

STEVE JOBS *

By all accounts this sound have been an excellent film. While I'm not a fan of Aaron Sorkin's overall body of work, I thought THE SOCIAL NETWORK was outstanding, and with a script depicting a main character as iconic (and polarizing) as Steve Jobs, helmed by the director of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, this promised to be a first-rate picture.

Sadly, it is anything but. STEVE JOBS is not (as one might expect) a "biopic”. In fact it doesn’t really even tell much of a story. Instead it consists of three separate vignettes, each taking place during the final moments leading up one of Jobs' public product announcements (the original Macintosh in 1984, the unveiling of the NeXT computer in 1990, and lastly the iMac in 1998). Each vignette mostly consists of caustic dialog exchanges (between Jobs and his ex-girlfriend, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former Apple CEO John Scully, etc.), while Jobs' loyal publicity director Joanna Hoffman tries to keep him on track and "referee" these ongoing feuds.

Whereas THE SOCIAL NETWORK offered-up a slew of interesting settings and scenarios (as well as no shortage of deliciously eccentric characters), STEVE JOBS is in contrast a very "interior" script, with few locations, a small handful of speaking roles, and little room for much visual interest.

The film is also very cold and sterile, and bereft of humor. None of this is helped by the casting of Michael Fassbender, who looks nothing like Steve Jobs, and whose frosty, one-dimensional performance comes off more like the character of David in Prometheus than the brash, high-strung “wunderkind” he is supposedly portraying. Steve Jobs was notorious for being egotistical, blunt and a taskmaster — as the film accurately shows. But he was much more than that. He was a myriad of contradictions — laid-back but given to angry outbursts, an awkward nerd who was also charismatic and cool, an uncompromising perfectionist who was loved and revered by the designers he endlessly browbeat. But unlike the robotic, middle-aged killjoy we see in this movie, Steve Jobs was very emotionally engaged in his life and work, and possessed a youthful energy and enthusiasm (and appearance) for most of his life.

A key component of the film is Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa, whom he at first refuses to acknowledge as his own child, but ultimately comes to accept and love. This element provides what little emotional resonance the film has to offer. Otherwise there’s no real arc to Jobs’ character in the film, who remains pretty much the same SOB at the end he was at the beginning. In reality the Steve Jobs who introduced the iMac in 1998 was a very different person from the cocky, 28-year-old who introduced the Macintosh in 1984, having been tempered by a series of professional failures and personal humiliations over the years. STEVE JOBS also leaves one with the impression that Lisa was Jobs' only child, and that he was a solitary loner who was not close to anyone. No mention is made of Jobs marrying Lorene Powell in 1991, with whom he had a family and remained with until his death.

The film also depicts him as something of a con-man (and even borderline fraud who stole ideas, and took the credit for the work of those in his employ). It is very telling that John Sculley — who acrimoniously came to blows with Jobs (and had him ousted from the Macintosh development team) — says that Jobs was in reality “much nicer” than the film suggests. That speaks volumes about the historic accuracy of Sorkin’s script (or lack of it).

Whatever criticism one can level at 2013’s JOBS, starring Ashton Kutcher, at least it was a well-rounded depiction of the man (and cast an actor who actually resembles Steve Jobs!). Even the 1999 TV movie PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY gave one a better sense of Jobs’ life and career than this film.

Aaron Sorkin can write excellent dialog, and his scenes are relatively watchable (if a bit overlong). Some of the performances are excellent (I didn't even recognize Kate Winslet until the film was nearly over). Director Danny Boyle does his best to keep the viewer's eye engaged (inventively shooting each vignette in a different format — 16mm, 35mm and digital), but Sorkin's script mostly "tells" rather than "shows", and is ultimately more suited to the stage than the screen. Moreover, it doesn’t really have much of substance to say. STEVE JOBS is a very incomplete portrait of the title character, and neither he nor any of the other characters are very sympathetic, or interesting.

This movie is a bomb.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3069 Post by AndyDursin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:23 pm

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
7/10

It’s unfortunate that, despite producing four sequels that have generated literally billions of dollars, Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have never been able to really follow through on the promise of the original “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Their latest sequel, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, likewise plays to diminishing returns, though unlike most of its predecessors, at least it provides a satisfying ending to the entire franchise – righting some of the narrative stumbles that plagued the various entries that followed 2003’s original “Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Though still overlong (clocking in at a full two hours minus credits), this shortest series installment finds Will Turner’s son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), trying to break his father (Orlando Bloom) from the Dutchman’s curse. He finds a solution in Poseidon’s Trident, a mysterious artifact that can break all the various curses of the sea, but is being pursued by the villainous, ghostly Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants vengeance on Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who sent him to the bottom of the ocean floor as a teenager. Using the help of a budding female scientist (Kaya Scodelario), Jack and Henry form an uneasy alliance as they search for the Trident, with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) also in hot pursuit for reasons of his own.

It will surprise no one that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is best recommended for series fans. If you found the previous “Pirates” movies loud, overbearing and tedious, you’re basically going to have a similar issue here, as the movie plays right along the formula set by its predecessors. What’s different though is a seemingly reduced budget that results in both positive and negative attributes: on the one hand, this fifth adventure seems to lack a certain energy, relying heavily on CGI instead of actual shooting locales (no Caribbean settings here – this one was shot in Australia and sound stages in England and Canada). “Kon-Tiki” directors Joachm Ronning and Espen Sandberg fail to bring a distinctive voice to the shenanigans, though there’s at least one set-piece (ghost sharks!) you haven’t seen before. Among the cast, Depp tries as always, but Sparrow as a character hasn’t grown at all since he was first on-screen, making him more of a prop than anything else, while young leads Thwaites and Scodelario aren’t going to linger long in the memory.

Even if the energy flags, at least Jeff Nathanson’s script is straightforward and avoids the clutter of prior scripts in the series. The third “Pirates,” “At World’s End,” supplied a strenuously unsatisfying ending to the series’ initial trilogy, and after a fourth picture that generally functioned as a standalone, Nathanson’s job here was clearly to provide a less cluttered finale that directly addressed fans’ disappointment over that sequel. In that regard, “Dead Men” does its fairly job well, particularly considering that endings haven’t been the strong suit for this particular franchise. Bardem is fun when the movie gives him the fleeting chance to exact villainy (even if he’s bathed in too much CGI), and there are enough reflective moments here to balance out the action.

It may not be surprising or all that involving, but if this is Jack Sparrow’s swan song, at least it’s a respectable adventure that should please series buffs, and that’s more than one can say for the waterlogged outings that preceded it.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3070 Post by Paul MacLean » Sun Oct 08, 2017 11:53 pm

Goldfinger ****

I just watched this again, this time with a couple I am friendly with, and another (woman) friend of theirs. They all loved it (the two gals had never even seen any Bond films).

One of the things that impresses me about this (and many other Bond films) is how well they hold up to multiple viewings. They never seem to get old, or boring.

I was also struck by the fact that, although Goldfinger was released in 1964, it doesn't seem archaic or "uncool" today. It may be "a product of its time" but therein lies much of its appeal -- while teenagers may disagree, the 60s was actually a far-more cool era than our modern world, which (even in the last few years) has become so obsessed with political correctness, sexism, racism, hate speech, transphobia (and all the other latest excuses to be offended) that everyone must walk on eggshells.

It's just so refreshing to see a character who embodies devil-may-care masculinity, drives a gorgeous (and environmentally unfriendly) car, "mansplains", and seduces a lesbian.

Lets enjoy these films...while we're still allowed to.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3071 Post by mkaroly » Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:14 am

Just a couple of quick hits:

PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES - I watched this with my niece (10 years old) and nephew (8 years old) while on vacation. They both love the film and have seen it multiple times. It was entertaining, and at least the plot made sense...but it seemed to me to be more of a "color by numbers" installment that attempted to wrap up loose ends from the previous films. It had its moments of humor, and I agree with people who have said that Depp does nothing to develop his character but just stays the course as it were. Not great but not bad - I will give it credit for being somewhat moving in the Barbossa/daughter storyline and their moment toward the end. All in all it is a vast improvement over all but the first two films IMO - I would give it a 6/10.

PINK PANTHER COLLECTION from SHOUT! - So I finished watching the rest of the films in the Shout! collection. My final ranking of the films stays the same I think as I had posted elsewhere (too lazy to look it up...lol...):

A SHOT IN THE DARK (tops in every way and hold up well)
RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (just a fun film with great moments in it)
REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (guilty favorite; very goofy but I love the music in this one)
THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (good film - love the Until You Love Me song and Clouseau's theme)
THE PINK PANTHER (good in its own way but it doesn't compare with the others)

For the first time I watched TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER the whole way through - as a stand-alone film this is an abysmal failure. The attempt to link outtakes with a story of a reporter searching for a missing Clouseau is painful to watch (though when a young Clouseau tries to commit suicide and ends up blowing up his apartment I laughed). On that level the film gets a 1/10 for me. However, as an homage to Peter Sellers and the character of Clouseau, I found it to be touching at times (especially in Burt Kwok's performance and moments on screen; whether he meant it or not, the emptiness in Kato's life without Clouseau came across really well for me) and somewhat sad. The outtakes weren't very funny (though the strongest of them was the pop-up lighter sequence - when the car finally blows up I started laughing), and I can see why they were left on the cutting room floor. There is a moment in the film where Joanna Lumley looks through a photo album of Clouseau; ultimately I feel like that's what this film is. When viewed in that way, it isn't so painful to watch (maybe a 4/10 at most). It reminded me of how great Sellers was in the role and how much I enjoy all the films.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3072 Post by AndyDursin » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:14 am

I've always liked CURSE more than TRAIL. At least it's a "real movie" and Mancini's score is one of his livelier efforts from the later PP films. Obviously it's not great (I mean, it's Ted Wass, how could it be?), but if you're going to go through the series Michael, it's worth checking out both that and INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU with Alan Arkin -- interesting misfires both. SON I would avoid, though it's also not unwatchable. The Steve Martin bombs we save for that designation! 8)

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3073 Post by mkaroly » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:03 am

Some quick reviews (I have been on vacation this week and am getting caught up on some movies I have been long-overdue in watching).

BRIDGE OF SPIES (9/10). I really, really enjoyed this film, though it was odd watching a Spielberg film without a John Williams score to go along with it. This is simply a character drama, and I enjoyed kicking my feet up and watching a film that was not preoccupied with explosions. Instead, it took its time and allowed actors to act without cutting away every second. In contrast to Zimmer and his clone's score to BLADE RUNNER 2049, Thomas Newman's score came as a welcome relief - he understands nuance and subtlety, and his score delivers the emotional goods at the end. I found myself absorbed in the film from start to finish - well done.

THE BFG (4/10). Spielberg and his films for kids. :roll: I think this film is better than HOOK and THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN, but not by much. The actress who plays the little girl in the film did a great job, and although John Williams' score is not one of his best it still works in the film I think (and is miles better than the BR 2049 crap). Unfortunately there is no bite in this film at all - it is just kind of there...Spielberg on auto-pilot. I watched some of the documentary material; Melissa Mathison wrote the screenplay (and Spielberg linked The BFG with ET thematically in the documentary); while all that may be the case, and while I get the thematic links, the two movies are not even close to being the same in the performances, delivery, and impact. I can't think of anything more to say.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3074 Post by AndyDursin » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:07 am

Yes point on Michael. One of Spielberg's better recent films and one of his career worst.

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Re: rate the last movie you saw

#3075 Post by Eric Paddon » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:17 am

I still would like to have seen the "Trail" outttakes put back into "Strikes Again" where they were all intended for. There was even more "Strikes Again" material cut that we never got to see and Edwards wanted to use some "Return" outtakes but couldn't get ITC's permission.

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