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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Timothy-
Lane
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 8, 2018, 21:02
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Idiot plots happen. Note that in the novel Dracula, Van Helsing and Harker go hunting for Dracula but leave Mina Harker unprotected in the sanitarium they use as a base -- even though they know of the Count's interest in her and know that he has penetrated the sanitarium already. Fantasy writer Jean Lorrah, commenting on the novel, really was unhappy with that, and I can't blame her.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 9, 2018, 08:44
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Idiot plots happen.

I totally agree, Timothy. And I know some people must be bewildered who read my reviews that contain so much criticism but end with “Do see it anyway.”

One interesting phenomenon that I noticed early and often is what a friend of mine calls “crap-settling.” Even taking into account that we all have different tastes for movies, there are some movies that are so obviously bad that “a matter of taste” just can’t reasonably said to be the deciding factor when people praise it to high hell.

Maybe because one has just spent the money (not cheap at the movie theatres anymore) and/or time one must justify it. I don’t feel that need. Nor do I feel the need to go overboard on criticism. I love praising the good stuff too. And there is often much good stuff inside mediocre movies. Or an otherwise good and watchable movie can have such a bad ending that it can mar the overall experience.

But I say go watch some of those mediocre movies anyway. Sometimes it’s only the average of the movie that is mediocre such as when 75% of it may be good but the ending stinks it up. It can be like adding one drop of black ink to discolor the otherwise clear water. But there is the clear water and there is the ink.

And that certainly describes the movie, “Mona Lisa.” I may have good reasons or bad reasons for liking a movie. But they will not hopefully be stupid reasons as a yute relative of mine had who said “I just don’t like black-and-white movies.” That’s the mindset of a child. Not watch Casablanca because it hasn’t been colored for those Snowflakes who have overdosed on cultural rainbows of saccharine sunshine?

Still, I do have some difficult areas of my own. AMC used to (probably still does) have a Silent Movie Sunday where they’d show a silent film (or two) starting around 9 or 10 o’clock. I actually discovered (was exposed to) some real gems of silent movies that worked as silent movies. But I find the watchable ones few and far between. Many of them are just low-budget and/or (perhaps necessarily, perhaps not) over-dramatized. Still, there are the gems, but as a rule I steer clear of silent films.

But all of my criticism should be taken in the context that I do not crap-settle, that I will not call a turd a gem just because it has a favorite star in it, or is a favorite type of film (comic book movie enthusiasts are particularly prone to apologizing for bad movies), or simply because I spent money or time on it. Perfect objectivity is impossible in an area of art such as this, but the phenomenon of crap-settling is real, as is denuded or undeveloped tastes (such as dispensing with all black-and-white movies just because you’re addicted to a juvenile Disneyesque palette of super-saturated colors).

Yeah, that plot hole in Dracula is quite unforgivable.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 9, 2018, 09:05
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I haven't seen too many silent movies. I recall that the Holmes-Doyle Symposium once showed possibly the first Holmes movie (or the oldest still extant; this was about 30 years ago, and my memory is imperfect), "The Copper Beeches" -- made funny by their use of Gounod's "Funeral March of the Marionette" as background music. I think Elizabeth didn't know why I found that funny in its way. It involved very exaggerated acting, as many did (which played a key role in one of Alfred Hitchcock's hour-long episodes in which an actor in silent movies was a major character). They didn't use cards to show the dialogue, just to lead in to different sections of the story.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 10, 2018, 20:34
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I wish I could remember some of the very good silent movies that I’ve seen, Timothy. (“Metropolis” is not one of them. It’s a visually advanced movie but I was bored to tears by the story.)

It’s time for a review of the latest FilmStruck movie. This one I will not include any even small spoilers. The movie is good enough (and certainly highly plot-based) to respect it. People should watch this one fresh. But I’ll set it up for you.

The Yakuza. This one is from 1974, directed by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “The Firm,” “Out of Africa,” “The Way We Were”).

Robert Mitchum, as private eye Harry Kilmer, accepts an assignment from an old friend, George Tanner (Brian Keith). Tanner has had a business difficulty with a Japanese firm whose head is a member of the Yakuza, the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia. Tono has kidnapped Tanner’s daughter and basically threatens to send her back in pieces unless Tanner can make good on his end of the business deal.

The Yakuza are not to be trifled with. The only reason Kilmer-san accepts the job from Tanner is because he has a connection to an ex-Yakuza member, the brother of his old Japanese flame (Eiko). Kilmer had saved Eiko after the war (he had been a solider in Japan). They fell in love with each other. But she refused to marry Kilmer because her brother disapproved. Her brother, Tanaka Ken (played by Ken Takakura), had been one of those really dedicated soldiers who did not surrender at the end of the war. He spent 5 years in the jungle on some remote island.

Ken downright dislikes Kilmer. But despite that, Kilmer knows that Ken has the traditional Japanese connection to Kilmer of “obligation” because he had saved his sister. He can hate Kilmer but he owes him one.

Richard Jordan (as Dusty) comes in as a member of Kilmer’s Japanese team. They must somehow rescue Tanner’s daughter without getting caught in, or starting, a gang war.

There are some twists and turns in this, but not too much so. Mitchum is Mitchum, which is a good thing. He just needs to comb his hair once in a while. Geez.

This is certainly a movie steeped in Japanese culture, although I’d need Mr. Kung’s set of eyes on this to gauge the authenticity of it. There are some very good scenes when Mitchum meets up with his old flame, Eiko, after so many years. Their reunion is bittersweet but played with a sense of realism. The film lags a bit as it moves from this reunion to the attempt to rescue Tanner’s daughter. But it eventually does get going.

And unlike a few movies I’ve seen recently, this one actually ends well, which is all I’m going to say about it — except, of course, that you should see this one.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 10, 2018, 20:57
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I checked it out on wikipedia, and I can see why you didn't want to have any spoilers. I will say their description was a bit vague as to whether or not guy got girl in the end. Elizabeth might like it, of course, depending on how accurate their portrayal of Japanese (and Yakuza) culture was. Ken's anger at Eiko and Kilmer happens because she took up with a gaijin, even if one who had saved her life.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 10, 2018, 21:00
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That obligation is called "giri" in Japanese.

The Japanese police and Yakuza would often work together in the old days. The police expected the Yakuza to keep the violent crime down and not cause too much trouble in the neighborhoods of Tokyo.

That changed somewhat in the middle to late 1980's as various groups broke off of larger Yakuza gangs. Yamaguchi gumi, was the name of the largest group at one time. They (Yakuza gangs) even had logos like Mitsui, Japan Airlines and other large corporation.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 11, 2018, 13:11
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Thanks for the further info on the Yakuza. That's interesting that they even had official logos.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 11, 2018, 14:55
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Here is the logo for Yamaguchi gumi.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yamabishi.svg

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 11, 2018, 16:18
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Simple.Clean. Very Ninja-like.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: March 16, 2018, 09:43
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I watched another Yakuza-based film the other day. This one was on Netflix. The Outsider. It’s “A Netflix Film,” whatever that means.

The first 3/5ths of it is good enough. Jared Leto plays ex-American soldier Nick Lowell in a prison in post-war Japan. We don’t know why he’s in there. Nor does it matter. You can tell he’s a rough trade.

While inside, he saves the life of a man (Kiyoshi) from an assassination attempt by a rival Yakuza faction. Later he and Nick wind up in the same prison cell. Kiyoshi proposes a plan for breaking out of there but it requires a suicide attempt by Kiyoshi and Nick will have to make sure he doesn’t die and that the guards come to their assistance.

The how’s and why’s of how this all is worked out are glossed over, the first major flaw of this film, but we can easily leave this behind us as it's just a way to move on post-prison. Kiyoshi and Nick are now becoming trusted buds. Kiyoshi offers the American a job with his Yakuza gang and Nick readily accepts.

Nick is certainly the “outsider.” But with the contribution of a finger or two (due to a botched robbery he was involved in), he begins to gain the trust of the Yakuza leaders. Eventually Nick is made a full brother.

The other large flaw in the movie is the tired plot element of the forbidden woman. Supposedly those in the Yakuza (at least at the soldier level) cannot have regular families, thus Kiyoshi’s beautiful sister is off limits to Nick, although that stops neither of them. Because this plot point actually does not touch on one or two of the usual cliches, you can sort of let it fade into the background. But it's a definite warning sign that the good writers have likely all committed Seppuku and the back-up team has moved in.

The movie drifts from minor job to minor job for Nick. There is no back story for his character so he drifts more and more into the realm of being nothing more than a sociopath. That’s fine, I guess, but I don’t know if that’s what the filmmakers intended. But the absence of anything else leaves Nick as a hollow character

The true excellence of the movie is contained in the performance of Tadanobu Asano as Kiyoshi. He’s 100% believable as he follows the unique design of allowing an outsider inside the Yakuza. But Kiyoshi trusts Nick implicitly

And then the movie turns into some of the worst aspects of The Godfather movies. There is an ongoing rivalry between the clan that Nick is a part of and a nearby one in Osaka. The Osaka clan is proposing some kind of merger or cooperation in investing in some new industry (such as electronics). But the boss doesn’t trust the Osaka clan and probably with good reason. But we’ll never know. Nick’s clan leader is too old-fashioned for the kind of plan offered by the Osaka leader even if this leader was being genuine.

And that’s all well and good. It gives a chance to show that Nick was not only a loyal “outsider,” he was more loyal than at least a third of his own clan. The movie finally shoots itself in the foot in the closing “High Noon-ish” scene where Nick’s clan leader agrees to meet that Osaka clan leader at a “neutral” site suggested by the Osaka clan. It’s all very dumb and stupid how this plays out. Nick’s clan walks directly into a trap without a thought that there might even be a trap. The movie has a lot about it that was intelligent but it gave it all away in this final scene.

Or nearly final seen. They had to set of a sequel, which they did. But having killed off all the compelling characters, let’s hope they just quit after one.

Still, with those caveats noted, this isn’t a half-bad movie. It is at least something watchable in what is more and more becoming the barren wasteland of Netflix. A read an article the other that noted that Netflix was becoming the dumping ground for the equivalent of “direct to video” movies that otherwise couldn’t make it in the theatre. Finding anything good to watch is becoming more difficult as Netflix has obviously gone the route of “quantity” over “quality.”

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