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Recently watched movies! • Monster Zero x SciFi Japan - Archive Only

Recently watched movies!

Talk about anything on your mind!

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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Wed Aug 30, 2023 9:36 pm

Did the Barbenheimer thing but with the new TMNT and Demeter, sooo... "Dracurtles" ? "Turtula" ?

Mutant Mayhem feels like an adaptation of the original TMNT toyline, which was always a slightly different beast from the OG cartoon that promoted those toys. The first TMNT movie undefeated, but this us like a much better version of Secret of the Ooze.

Demeter is the best Universal Monster Movie since Invisible Man (which itself was the best since The Mummy '99) and probably the best straight-up Dracula movie since Coppola. I only noticed one Universal Easter egg: a certain cane with a silver wolf head among Dracula's luggage.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby Benjamin Haines » Fri Oct 06, 2023 11:39 pm

^ Sometimes I feel like I'm the only millennial in America who never got into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid. I've never seen any of the movies and what little I saw of the shows didn't compel me to watch more. My younger brothers were into the 2003 animated series. My most vivid memory of anything TMNT-related was when the Turtles guest-starred in an episode of Power Rangers In Space. I'd probably find a lot to like in the live-action TMNT movies from the '90s if I checked them out now.


Nope (2022) - I finally watched this earlier this week and I think it's my new favorite of Jordan Peele's films. As with Get Out and Us, this is a horror movie that's best experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible so I don't want to say too much here. It's chilling and very effective, a modern sci-fi western woven with show business trappings and lots of gorgeous scenery.


Eternals (2021) - This film is EPIC! It's great to see Marvel Studios still taking big swings by adapting new-to-cinema comic characters this late in the game.

The Eternals are ageless beings with superpowers who were created by Arishem, an ancient Celestial who is much larger than planet Earth itself. Arishem sent the Eternals to Earth thousands of years ago to defend humanity against Deviants, marauding creatures from space that infested the planet. There are ten Eternals, each with their own unique powers, and the lead character of this movie is Sersi (Gemma Chan), who can change and transform any matter that she touches. The story shifts briskly between the present (post-Avengers: Endgame) and the past, exploring how human history was impacted by the Eternals and vice versa. When a new crisis threatens planet Earth unlike anything before, the Eternals must step out of the shadows to confront the truth about humanity and about themselves.

Apparently critics were torn on this movie, as Rotten Tomatoes lists more than 400 critic reviews of Eternals with 47% positive and 53% negative. Count me with the 47% of critics and the 77% of users on that site who have positive impressions of this flick. A lot of people seem to compare this to DC Comics films but I think a more apt comparison for Eternals is the first two X-Men movies, in terms of how smoothly it juggles a large ensemble cast with an emotionally resonant story while making the most of depicting all of their special abilities onscreen. The cinematography and the sheer scope of the visuals are on a whole new level for comic-based films.

Now I'm finally caught up on Marvel Studios content through the year 2021. I still haven't seen any of Marvel's films or shows from 2022 to the present but I hope to get caught up by the end of this year.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Sat Oct 07, 2023 10:38 am

^ I'd recommend at least the original TMNT film, which is based very closely on the original indie comics with only a few concessions to appeal to the more kid-friendly cartoon audience (a cartoon which was only just getting started while this movie was being produced!). It's gritty but also playful, and features great Jim Henson Creature Shop effects, stunts and fight choreo from Hong Kong's Golden Harvest (Bruce and Jackie's studio!), and some really great performances from both voice actors and puppeteers and the flesh and blood human actors, too (Elias Koteas and Judith Hoag should be in more movies!).

II is much goofier kid movie (still with great Henson creatures) and III lower quality still, with much weaker (non-Henson) animatronics - but, that movie is a time travel tale in feudal Japan so it introduced me to samurai as a kid and I'll always have a soft spot for it for that reason!

Nope was really terrific. Get Out was the right movie at the right time and because of that became a phenomenon, but Nope is probably my favorite of his films. It's a more dense, even challenging film in terms of its themes... but it's also a fun adventure movie at the same time! And it's the best pure 'monster movie' of this century along with Bong's The Host.

Last weekend I saw the re-release of the classic Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. Sadly missed the one week IMAX run because I had covid two weeks ago, but I, you know, sat really close to the screen and made my own IMAX! It's the greatest concert film ever and I really recommend experiencing it on the big screen.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sun Oct 22, 2023 4:22 pm

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) - After all these years, I've finally seen this fourth entry in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean film series. I saw the first three back when they were new, during my high school years, but I was already well into college by the time this fourth movie came out and my lady and I just never got around to it back then. I know we've both watched the first movie multiple times over the years but I hadn't seen the second or third films since around 2008 and I don't think she had either, so we recently rewatched all of them before this one. The Curse of the Black Pearl is still as great as ever, a brilliantly written and directed adventure film with a lightning-in-a-bottle cast who bring their characters to life with gusto. It works especially well because the premise is such a straightforward historical drama with one supernatural element at its core. The cursed Aztec gold turned Captain Barbossa and his crew of pirates into undead ghouls whose true forms are only visible in moonlight, and that stands out as weird and unusual against the 18th-century Caribbean landscape that the movie depicts. It's the sequels that turn the series into full-fledged fantasy by introducing all sorts of different supernatural elements, from the giant Kraken sea monster to the goddess Calypso, from the otherworldly realm of Davy Jones' Locker to the underwater-swimming ship the Flying Dutchman. My opinions of Dead Man's Chest and At World's End really haven't changed. They're over-the-top and excessive as all hell, never achieving the earnest spirit or organic storytelling of the original, but they're still fun and captivating swashbucklers. With production budgets of $225m and $300m respectively, the second and third Pirates each broke the record for the most expensive movie ever produced when they were released and every cent is up there on the screen to appreciate. Dead Man's Chest suffers the most from scattershot plotting and a lack of natural character motivations, as it's forced to continue from the first story's conclusion while teeing up all of the characters for the cliffhanger ending leading to the third film. It's great to see this cast again but the movie struggles to find a role for Elizabeth Swann, while Jack Sparrow goes from the purpose-driven and scene-stealing scallywag of the first film to a rather unsympathetic coward whose only goal seems to be to run away at everyone else's expense. At World's End continues pulling plot elements out of thin air but it benefits from all of the previous film's table-setting with a much more urgent and substantial story driving all of the action. It takes everything to new heights of insanity while letting the characters come into their own.

On Stranger Tides is a peculiar movie. It's entertaining, don't get me wrong, and I'm certainly glad that I finally checked it out. It has some good qualities, some bad qualities, and some genuinely confounding qualities. It takes a reasonable approach to continuing the series with a fourth film: the stories of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner have been told, so Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom don't return, and the focus shifts squarely to Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow as the lead character, with Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa and Kevin McNally as Gibbs returning in supporting roles, and the rest of the cast being almost all fresh faces.

The supernatural element at the center of the story is the fabled Fountain of Youth which everyone is after: the British, the Spanish, Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and of course Jack. Barbossa has lost the Black Pearl and one of his legs, gained a peg leg and given up the pirate life to work as a captain for the British.

The extended action sequence that opens the movie culminates with another cameo appearance by Jack's father, with Keith Richards briefly reprising his role from the third film. Sure, it's fun to see him again but it instantly makes his previous cameo near the end of the third film seem less special in retrospect, and his brief role here is primarily to dump a lot of plot exposition on Jack and send him on his way. Jack reconnects with his ex-lover Angelica and she brings him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge to help Blackbeard find the Fountain of Youth.

All of that would have been a compelling enough premise for this story, and yet the movie proceeds to toss in so many additional supernatural elements left and right. According to a prophecy, in order for water from the Fountain of Youth to work, it requires two silver chalices located on Ponce de Leon's ship, as well as a mermaid's tear. Two people must drink the Fountain's water from the silver chalices, one of which must also contain the mermaid's tear, so that the person who drinks the water with the tear will gain all of the remaining years of life from the other person. The inclusion of mermaids makes for the best action sequence midway through the film, with the mermaids depicted as vicious predators of the sea, luring victims with their song and then leaping out of the water in mass numbers. Blackbeard's capture of a mermaid leads to a minor romantic subplot between her and a captured missionary among Blackbeard's crew, which comes across as a pale imitation of the romance between Will and Elizabeth from the first three flicks.

Still, even with all of those gratuitous story elements, none of that sticks out like a sore thumb or drags the movie down. By far the most egregious things in this movie are the supernatural elements involving Blackbeard. Apparently having Blackbeard himself as the antagonist in a Pirates of the Caribbean film just wasn't enough, because this take on Blackbeard has several zombies as the top members of his ship's crew. Blackbeard also uses a voodoo doll to torment Jack. Blackbeard also has a magical sword that enables him to project his will to physically move ships and parts of ships, which he demonstrates when he quells a mutiny by causing the ship's ropes to tie up his treacherous crew. Blackbeard's ship is also equipped with giant flamethrower cannons. Blackbeard has also taken every ship he has sunk and somehow shrunken them down into tiny ships which he keeps in glass bottles, including the Black Pearl, complete with miniaturized ocean waves and cloudy skies inside the bottles too. It's all just pointless nonsense that left me wondering why they did it.

The highlight of this film is Barbossa's subplot, from seeing him command a British ship with wanton disregard for the crew to the buddy-movie scenes he eventually shares with Jack as their paths merge in search of the Fountain of Youth. The ending of the flick is over-the-top nutty across the board but it works in the context of this crazy story with satisfying resolutions for all of the main characters.

It's not a bad movie overall, although I would rank it in fourth place compared to its predecessors just by default. It's about as narratively forced as the second flick but the action sequences and visual style are sorely missing Gore Verbinski's polished direction. I do admire how On Stranger Tides is a less action-packed movie than the prior sequels, with a third act finale that's more intimate than bombastic. That's why I'm surprised that this flick apparently broke At World's End's record as the most expensive film ever produced at the time it was released, because it doesn't show it onscreen.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Thu Nov 02, 2023 3:42 pm

Life really got in the way this Halloween season. Only got three films in, plus a nostalgic rewatch of the '00s basic cable seasonal staple '100 Scariest Movie Moments.'

My local theater showed Halloween '78 last weekend and it was great to finally see on the big screen. Finally watched my British Blu-ray of another staple, Night of the Demon (it's region free and loaded with extras!). The only new-to-me flick was 1990 Hong Kong flick Magic Cop, a horror/comedy/martial arts movie. I haven't watched any of the famous Mr. Vampire movies yet, but this is essentially a Mr. Vampire spinoff in all but name, with Lam Ching-ying as a Chinese Van Helsing who uses his Taoist knowledge to fight supernatural threats. The only difference is that this movie has none of the traditional Chinese hopping vampires, and instead has a couple of zombie servants to a criminal sorceress (gorgeous Japanese bodybuilder Michiko Nishiwaki for most of the film, until she becones a ghoul in the finale). Some incredible setpieces revolving around how this magic works that would be difficult for me to explain but make immediate visual sense and result in some amazing gags.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Tue Dec 26, 2023 1:01 am

This December I spent a lot of time in the theater watching the same two movies multiple times. Naturally, I was extremely excited to see a new Toho Godzilla movie and a new Hayao Miyazaki movie on the big screen, but what I never could have guessed was that both Godzilla Minus One and The Boy and the Heron would be released in a barren few weeks for the US box office and end up filling the void with a perfect storm of positive buzz and both drastically overperform! Godzilla kept hanging in the top 3 for a while and Heron even had the #1 spot it's opening weekend. Incredible! After my first viewing of Heron I dipped into the neighboring screen to watch the finale of Minus One. What a great time at the movies!

Now the holiday releases are pushing their way in and in my three local theaters one or the other seem to be leaving in a few days. I'm gonna be on vacation first week of January and I intend to see each one more time! That would be a fourth for Godzilla (or 4.5) and a third for Heron (I've seen both the sub and dub).

Oh, and as for The Boy and the Heron? Classic Miyazaki. Of the three films he's released since I became a fan (so, Ponyo, Wind Rises, and this) this one is by far my favorite. Very evocative of some of his earlier work but there's a kind of reflective quality that's understandable for Miyazaki's advanced age, plus a strong autobiographical element. Death is scary, and in revisiting some of his familiar themes there's a but if an edge to them that feels like it's almost horror. It's like we're retreating back into both Miyazaki's ouvre and his subconscious. Makes you want to rewatch all of his classic films.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sat Mar 16, 2024 10:27 pm

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) - Slowly catching up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I've finally seen this sequel to Doctor Strange, which is already Benedict Cumberbatch's sixth film appearance as the character (and seventh counting the What If...? animated series). It's a good movie, not great, just a fun and well-made take on a generic story template with a strong cast, all of which was also true of the first Doctor Strange. Directed by Sam Raimi and written by Michael Waldron (Loki, Rick & Morty), this film's style is right up my alley so I liked it a lot. Apparently critics and audiences were mostly positive toward this movie in the real world, while the online reactions from Marvel fans were largely negative. The general sentiment from online fans seems to be that the film doesn't have nearly enough cameos by other Marvel characters, which I think is silly. There is one key mid-film sequence in a different universe that features several surprise guest appearances, and that is plenty. The whole movie didn't need to be a cameo fest and I'm glad that it's not. The other most common online complaint from Marvel fans is that this movie isn't as good as Spider-Man: No Way Home, although I think that just dovetails with wanting more Marvel character cameos, because let's be honest, the reason why No Way Home rocketed up every fan's favorites list is the fact that it features all of the Spider-Man actors and villains from prior flicks. Of course Marvel fans reacted negatively when No Way Home was followed by a Doctor Strange sequel that doesn't feature any variants of Spider-Man. This is very much a sequel to Doctor Strange starring Stephen Strange and his supporting cast, and in Marvel's signature fashion it also doubles as a spinoff of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and it works well on both counts. It also functions as a follow-up to the 2021 Disney+ miniseries WandaVision, as this movie guest-stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, although you don't need to have seen that miniseries in order to understand this Doctor Strange sequel. (But you should totally watch WandaVision because it's one of the best things Marvel has ever produced.)


Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) - I've also finally seen this fourth Thor movie, which is Chris Hemsworth's eighth film appearance as the character (ninth counting What If...?). Directed again by Taika Waititi, this is a total companion piece to Thor: Ragnarok with the same style and approach, which is also right up my alley. It's a very fast-paced story that does a lot to develop its characters, building on the lore of prior Thor flicks and the last two Avengers entries, with a pervasive streak of dark humor rooted in a lighthearted sense of self-awareness. Loki, Hela and the Hulk aren't in this movie but Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster, Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie, Taika Waititi plays Korg again and Christian Bale joins the cast as the villain, Gorr the God Butcher. The Guardians of the Galaxy also appear in the first act, building on the ending of Avengers: Endgame, but most of the movie is about Thor meeting up again with Jane, who now wields the reconstructed hammer Mjolnir with all the powers of Thor. This is a great movie, on par with Ragnarok in every way, with a story that covers much different ground both in the characters and in carving out its own broader lore.


Side note, it's interesting to compare Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to Thor: Love and Thunder, because they're both Marvel sequels released a couple of months apart in the summer of 2022 and they're each helmed by talented directors with distinct styles, and yet the differences between those movies go beyond styles. As with the first two Spider-Man films, Sam Raimi was not a writer on Doctor Strange 2, whereas Taika Waititi wrote the Thor 4 script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. Waititi previously directed Thor: Ragnarok and reprised his role as Korg in Avengers: Endgame, so he was already deeply involved with the MCU before this. On the other hand, there was a Fandango interview with Sam Raimi back in 2022 in which they asked him how familiar he was with the MCU and he said that the only movies he had seen were Iron Man, The Avengers, Doctor Strange and Black Panther. The MCU-specific story elements of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness clearly didn't come from Raimi but his directorial style shines through in the visuals, the atmosphere and the action. The scenes set in NYC early in the film feel like they're cut from the same cloth as Raimi's Spider-Man films, and there's a lot of crazy camera work throughout the movie that stands apart from other Marvel entries. Conversely, Waititi's style is baked into every aspect of Thor: Love and Thunder, not just in the visuals, the atmosphere and the action but in the dialog, the plot details and the MCU-specific references.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Sat Mar 16, 2024 10:29 pm

Tried to watch a bunch of Oscar nominated stuff before the Oscars... aaaaand that didn't happen. Already saw Oppenheimer, Heron, and Godzilla. Did manage to see Poor Things. It's good! It's like the kind of movie Jean-Pierre Jeunet used to make, but not French and a bit more body horror.

Watari, the Ninja Boy is one of those lost puzzle pieces of '60s tokusatsu. I've loved this era of this genre since before kindergarten and I'm now in my 30s but I'm still filling gaps I didn't even know were there. In my defense; I'm not Japanese, the '60s were a long time ago, and a ton of stuff has been unavailable and folks just don't talk about it. Folks definetely should have been talking about Watari, a delightful, candy-colored tale of a pint-sized ninja who faces off against evil ninjas, makes friends, has fun, and he kills a ton of guys - more than a child usually does! His weapon is an axe on a rope! This is all erring on the mystic side of pop culture ninjas: disappearing and illusions and what have you. Watari is a favorite film you just haven't seen yet.

My local theater decided to show all the Mad Max films this week? Made it out for The Road Warrior. It's a killer flick, but unfortunately time has played a cruel joke on it, that being that George Miller made Fury Road a few decades later and, against all odds for such a late follow-up, it really was the bigger, better version of everything Miller did in his early days. It's hard to watch Road Warrior and not feel like you're watching a rough draft of Fury Road. The action sequences, the characters and world, and the intrinsic themes are all there and they feel like embryos compared to the fully realized things we've now seen. The biggest positive mark the former has over the latter is... no digital effects, baby! Seeing all those vehicles smash into each other and knowing it's all in camera? You can't get that feeling anymore.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sat Mar 16, 2024 10:38 pm

^ Poor Things and The Creator are both on my Hulu watchlist! I plan to check out The Boy and the Heron, Oppenheimer and Barbie at some point too.
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Thu Apr 11, 2024 7:08 pm

I had no expectations for The First Omen. Do we need another horror legacy brand reboot? We're really reaching a level of fatigue with those, right? Well, this one is a surprise in that it pretty great! Great performance, looks gorgeous - give it a shot!
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Mon May 20, 2024 2:35 pm

Was kind of dreading watching Criterion's Jackie Chan set because most of the movies are early period ones made when Jackie was still struggling in Lo Wei's content mines, but I ended up finding something to enjoy in all of them. He was beginning to figure out his screen persona, so he wasn't the square peg in a round hole of his earliest films. The fight choreography was beginning to get better and better in this period, so even if the film is ho-hum you can still count on some great setpieces. Spiritual Kung Fu might not be a classic, but the non-stop kung fu of the final third is worth the price of admission. Then I came to The Young Master...

The Young Master was a real sink-or-swim moment for Jackie. He wasn't amounting to much working for Lo Wei, then he was loaned out to another studio for two movies directed by Yuen Woo-ping (Drunken Master and Snake and Eagle's Shadow) and those were enormous hits. After disentangling from Lo Wei (which was difficult and potentially dangerous as underworld stuff was involved) Jackie was now with Golden Harvest Studios and in charge, starring and directing, so The Young Master essentially had to prove he wasn't a fluke and cement his star power.

It's an awesome movie. Top tier. After some story setup that feels pulled from a hundred other martial arts it becomes a series of Looney Tunes setpieces that just keep coming. Jackie and his Opera School classmate Yuen Biao are at their physical peak and are breathtaking to behold. Then, closing out this two hour Looney Tune, we have this grueling, prolonged ending fight that blows the doors off.

This last week I've spent watching my new Bounty Hunter Trilogy set from Radiance Films (a fantastic new boutique label) as well as this old DVD set of Showa Kamen Rider movies/theatrical specials I scored from a used bookstore a few years ago.

The Bounty Hunter Trilogy is three late '60s/early '70s films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama (of Lone Wolf and Cub) as a Shogun-era spy/mercenary/bounty hunter for hire who's anti-hero exploits fund his altruistic calling as a doctor who treats the poor. It's a deliberate attempt to combine the styles of samurai film with James Bond and Spaghetti Western vibes... so it's right up my alley! Wakayama is the older brother of Zatoichi star Shintaro Katsu, so when his character goes undercover as a blind man we get an entire sequence where Wakayama essentially spoofs his brother's character. He's actually pretty great, and may have been a good replacement if his brother ever had to bow out.

The Rider movies are a lot of fun. They tend to have less plot than even your average episodes, just providing kids a chance to see their TV favs onscreen jumping and kicking their way through a few action scenes. It gives a nice sample of the individual series, too. I really dig the look and vibes of V3 and Stronger, and I was delighted the mythological themed monsters of Kamen Rider X.

Saw Challengers on the big screen. Fantastic performances and the score is essentially a NIN dance album. Saw Alien '79 on the big screen, too, and that's certainly a film you should see theatrically if given the chance.
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lhb412
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Sun May 26, 2024 7:35 pm

Furiousa: A Mad Max Saga!

I'm absolutely astounded. I'm not a huge believer in prequels and such unnecessary lore extensions. Most of it's just milking the thing you already love with little to justify its own existence, and with Fury Road being kinda perfect why mess with it? Furiousa pulls it off. It enriches the story and characters and the only bad thing is that when it's over the theater doesn't just start playing Fury Road like it's all one big movie.

Anya Taylor Joy becomes Charlize Theron at the end of this movie. No special effects - just acting! Movie magic. The real deal.

Dissapointed about the box office because George Miller is operating at such a high level, doesn't have many years left, and says he's got another Mad Max in him. Give him whatever he wants!
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Sun Jun 02, 2024 11:36 am

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Not quite up to the level of the Ceasar trilogy, but still quite a good film in a more straightforward adventure mode. I also really appreciated that, since the timeline has moved up several hundred years, we now have more of the classic Planet of the Apes iconography. I was surprised by just how nostalgic the weird, moody score from '68 made me!
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Re: Recently watched movies!

Postby lhb412 » Thu Jun 27, 2024 9:51 pm

The bad thing about Furiosa bombing is that I won't be able to just walk into a theater all summer and see it half a dozen times as I did with Fury Road. Today I went to my city's last showing of the movie, my third!

Last weekend I saw Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in theaters. Twenty years ago, despite being a sequel to one of the most popular anime and made by the same director, this movie fell through the cracks. I don't entirely know why? Maybe it just wasn't what the audience was expecting? Anyway, it's a terrific film and an excellent companion to the original. I'm hoping GKIDS acquiring it and re-releasing it causes its status to rise.

Finished all the films in Shout's Classic Tokusatsu set. Magic Serpent is pretty cool, but not a barn-burner like Watari. Akakage seems like such a cool show (ninjas meets Batman '66 meets kaiju) but I don't think the compilation film on the set gives a good indication of it. It's like a YouTube highlight compilation.

And speaking of ninjas: I've watched some of the early Shinobi no Mono films. These are movies from the early '60s that really set the template for what a ninja movie was and how ninjas would typically be depicted in pop culture going forward. If you're watching a ninja in a movie, show, or game than chances are you're gonna see a recreation of a sequence originating in these films. Was kinda suprised by how grim these are. Ninjas is serious business!
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