Monday, January 21, 2019

For a Few Dollars More / Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)

I am probably doing the whole Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in West now that movies are available for a short time. So it is time for second movie in Dollars Trilogy. This time it is story of two bounty hunters after same big bounty. Clint Eastwood could or could not be playing same characters as in A Fistful of Dollars. He is more matured version of the character. Maybe he became bounty hunter between movies.

For a Few Dollars More tuned humor down little bit and replaced it with big tense scenes. Movie has masterful tension building in its countless duels and scenes where duels are teased. We would remember ending duel if next movie in Dollars Trilogy didn't top it. Story stays interesting by not taking most obvious paths. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef shine in their roles as ultra cool bounty hunters. Gian Maria Volontè almost go over board as almost crazy villain.

Like A Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is step up in cinematography from A Fistful of Dollars. Ennio Morricone's score is amazing as always. For a Few Dollars More suffers from Sergio Leone making one of the biggest westerns year later with same leads. It is still good as its own but it is easy to see as step between other Dollars Trilogy movies.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Fistful of Dollars / Per un pugno di dollari (1964)

I don't usually review westerns. Ones I have done have had science fiction angle in them. This one doesn't. It is been 90 years since birth of Sergio Leone, one of the greatest movie directors ever. I am a week and few days late honoring the even. I might do his other movies too since local tv station is celebrating the event and showing his movies.

A Fistful of Dollars is first entry in Dollars Trilogy and big reason why there is genre called spaghetti western. Movie is scored by Ennio Morricone under different name and starred by Clint Eastwood. The names you think about when you think about spaghetti westerns. This movie is big reason why you do that.

Man with No Name comes to town ruled by two rivaling gangs. He plans to make money playing in the middle. Compared to generic westerns A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have good guys. Everyone is more or less for himself. Westerns made outside America benefits that they don't have to upkeep mythical picture of one country's history. They can show more cynical version of time period.

There are couple technologies you don't expect in western. I don't think they weren't available at the time but you don't usually see those in movies which show period as epic time when real men fought honorable with revolvers. A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have honorable men. Man with No Name is not untouchable. There is always sense this could go really badly. For many characters it goes badly.

A Fistful of Dollars is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is cinematic masterpiece. It doesn't rely on western tropes. It brings amazing cinematography, good characters, good soundtrack and clever story to western movies. It is among best westerns as are other two movies of Dollars Trilogy.

I wonder if Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky punk" scene was inspired by A Fistful of Dollars. There is a scene where number of bullets in a gun is used as storytelling device.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Are Marvel movies that good after all?

I have watched way too many video essays and reviews of DCEU movies. Many of them compared DCEU movies to MCU movies. General consensus seemed to be Marvel movies are good and DC movies are not. But are Marvel movies that good? Compared to latest DC movie they are.

There are five or six good movies. First and third Avengers movies, last two Captain America movies and Guardians of the Galaxy movies. I am not sure about second Guardians of the Galaxy. I have to watch it again to be sure. Last two Captain America movies are semi Avengers movies with so many visiting characters and moving MCU forward. Individual heroes movies aren't that good.

I might have liked Ant-Man movies more if second movie continued from where first ended but for others I have no reason to watch again. Doctor Strange introduced important character for third Avengers movie but there wasn't much more besides cool visuals. Those movies are mostly there to introduce new characters and fill voids between more important movies.

Why people like these movies more than DCEU's movies or almost every other superhero movie? I think it because of the characters. People like the characters. They like most popular versions of these characters. Only Marvel Studios and Ryan Reynolds seem to understand it is good idea to bring most popular comic book versions to big screen. They don't copy comic book stories or characters completely. They bring the essence of characters to big screen.

When you add this to competent film making you get movies people like. Weird. You give people what they want to see and make it competently and people like it. Movies don't have to be good to be popular. MCU takes changes but they understand to keep heroes essence. Yes. I have seen Iron Man 3. And no, I don't remember reading comics with Mandarin in them. He worked in movie's story. At least if you didn't know the comic book version.

Using less popular versions of characters isn't the only problem DC movies have. It is one of the problems. I can understand why they chose to make DCEU like they did. DC had New 52 thing going on in comics when first DCEU movie was made. It was darker and grittier reboot of DC universe. Nolan's popular Batman trilogy had just ended. It was darker and more realistic. It could feel like good idea to do movie version what is currently on comics and follow tone of latest popular movie trilogy.

Problem is New 52 wasn't most popular version of the characters. In fact many older fans didn't like that version and movies decided to go even further with the darkness. Another problem was latest movie trilogy were Batman movies where darker and more realistic tone works. Next movie was Superman movie which needed brighter and more fantastic tone.

DC has other problems too. Bringing most popular versions of the characters wouldn't fix other problems but I think this is one reason why Marvel Studios are doing so well. Another is they have clear plan where they are going.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Strange Days (1995)

There is a reason why you should collect movies in physical format. Some movies just disappear if you don't have physical copy of them. Strange Days is one of those movies. I have searched for HD version every now and then without success. I am able to do this review because I own movie on dvd. Movie is science fiction movie set to far future of last days of 1999. That is probably reason I haven't found HD release.

On new year's eve on 2018 you wonder why they wanted to date the movie so badly. I guess they wanted to use Y2K fears on marketing. But the story didn't need to be set on new year's eve on 1999. There aren't many mentions of going to year 2000. This could have been on any day when society is on brink of collapsing and something happens which could put it over the brink.

Science fiction concept is device which let you record what you see and feel and play that back later. You could change that to small video cameras we have today or everyone carrying mobile phone with camera and the main story wouldn't have changed that much. Technology being rare and illegal part would have changed and everything related to it but main story wouldn't have changed that much.

I don't want to get too much into story. It is film noir or cyberpunk mystery with some good twists. You want to experience it unspoiled as possible. Movie tells everything you need to know about world. It is quite close to ours. Only one technology is different and that is only part of the story.

Strange Days is good movie but it lacks something to be memorable. It is probably the ending which give closure to arcs didn't need closure. Sometimes you need to leave something open. Main problem is the last shot of protagonist. It didn't need to happen. Movie implicated it could happen in future. It didn't need to show it. If you watch the movie you know what I am talking about.

Movie is dated mostly by music but some may not find science fiction movie set to end of 1999 that interesting almost twenty years later. When you watch the movie you should for get what year is now. It is not masterpiece. Just good science fiction movie.

Back to beginning. I checked if there was blu ray release. I found there was 20 year anniversary release few years ago. So there is HD version of the movie somewhere.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Batman Returns (1992) - Christmas 2018

People have movies they watch every Christmas. It could be traditional Christmas movie or movie happening during Christmas time. Die Hard is popular example of latter. I have wanted to start similar tradition but haven't figures out the movie before this Christmas. Silent Night Deadly Night was one candidate but it is not so good I could watch it every year. Then I remembered second entry on my favorite movie list happens during Christmas. I am not sure if I will review it every Christmas. This Christmas I do.

I have already reviewed this movie once. This time I go how I felt watching it during Christmas 2018.

I have seen this movie more times than any other movie but watching it 2018 gives undertones it didn't have previous times. I wonder who Max Shreck is based on. Can't think of anyone who is constantly in news these days. With Brexit and everything else going on political angle shows in different light. It is strange how well this tells what is going on 2018 even when it was made 1992. I wonder how it feels next year.

I wondered how well movie have endured social change of last few years. I was scared if this had something similar than that one scene in Blade Runner which feel very different today. I don't think there is. Selina Kyle is treated badly and told to be silent but that was by villains. I think movie was quite progressive by 1992's standards. It is not perfect but there weren't anything which makes you feel terrible to like the movie today.

Reason why I can watch this several times back to back is romance between Batman and Catwoman. This time scene where they find out their secret identities felt bit different. Catwoman felt too insane in that scene. She is bit crazy but not that crazy in other scenes. I can relate to how two awkward introverts try to reach each other. It is shame we didn't get conclusion to their story because this was Tim Burton's last Batman movie.

People have made Batman kill counts for DCEU Batman.I don't remember anyone complaining Batman killing people in Batman Returns. It is mentioned when someone complains Batman killing in DCEU but not complained. Maybe it didn't feel like killing in gothic fairy tale setting.