Five Cool Things and Operation Finale

It is Friday so here's another five things I discovered this week.
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For the first time in a while, I feel back in the swing of things.  I’ve been relatively healthy.  Our schedule is back on track from the chaos that comes from the kid going back to school. I’ve watched all the TV collections I needed to review.  So this week was all about me.  Trouble is, I got a little over zealous and tried to watch multiple movies almost at once, meaning I didn’t finish them.  I’d start one, take a break for whatever reason, then start another one having not finished the first.  I suspect you’ll hear about those next week.  Luckily for this week, I had some cool things in reserve.  And here we have them.

Inside Man

Spike Lee’s bank heist caper is one of his most restrained and best films.  It stars Clive Owen as the leader of a gang who creates a hostage situation when they try to rob a bank in broad daylight.  Denzel Washington is the cop trying to catch them.  Christopher Plummer is the bank owner who has a dark past and something hidden in the vault that would destroy him if discovered. Jodie Foster is the fixer who promises to not let that happen.

The script is tight, the dialogue pops, the acting is great all around, and Spike Lee is on the money with his direction.  I watched it a couple of weeks ago when my allergies were knocking me on my hind quarters and it was the perfect remedy.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga

x-men dark phoenix comic.jpgWith the new film adaptation of Chris Claremont’s beloved comic series currently in reshoots (and scheduled for release next year), I thought I’d return to the source material.  It is one of the most beloved X-Men stories of all time, and with good reason.

In previous issues, Jean Grey is exposed to solar radiation allowing her to attain advanced psi-powers. She becomes the ultimate mutant, the Phoenix, more powerful than anything.  Too powerful really and with some help, she is able to keep it under control.  But Mastermind, a member of the X-Men’s arch-enemies the Hellfire Club, starts messing with Jean’s mind, which ultimately unleashes the Dark Phoenix, who wrecks havoc across the universe, sucking all the power out of a distant sun killing millions of alien people in the process.  Can the rest of the X-Men destroy the Phoenix and save Jean Grey? Or will the Phoenix wipe the universe out of existence?

It goes to some interesting places to answer those questions.  It has everything you want in a classic X-Men story and a whole lot of depth and meaning you don’t expect from an early '80s-era comic book.

Inferno

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Dario Argento’s sequel to Suspiria is not quite as brilliant, but it is still a visual feast and the plot is just as bonkers.  I’m not sure I can adequately describe just what goes on in this film. A woman in New York believes her apartment building is the home to one of three witches (the first we met in Suspiria, the third won’t show up until Mother of Tears which came out some 30 years later), who collectively have the power to destroy the world.  She writes to her brother in Rome about it, but as it turns out, the third which lives in that city and has murder on her mind.

There is a mysterious lady with a cat, an underground and completely flooded ballroom with both a clue and a corpse, strange men with old books, hands that looked like burnt rubber, unique and blood-soaked murders, an odd score from Keith Emerson (who is decidedly not Goblin who did the crazy great score for Suspiria) and lots of red lighting.

It's fantastic.

The Returned

the returned.jpgFrench series about a group of dead people who return to life in an isolated village.  They don’t come back looking for brains to eat (though at times there is a bit of cannibalism) and their bodies show no sign of decay. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why they came back.  They remember their past lives, but don’t always seem emotionally connected to them.

It's more of a mystery show than a zombie one.  It is gorgeously shot and artfully made.  My wife and I started watching it a couple of years ago.  We loved the first season but got distracted about halfway through the second and put it off for a long time.  Coming back to finish it now found us a bit confused.  Reading reviews online shows, we are not the only ones.  I feel like it's a series that maybe didn’t have its end game planned out and thus fumbled a bit when they needed to wrap it up.  It's still very well worth watching, and utterly mesmerizing.

Godzilla

godzilla 1954.jpg

The original Gojira, made in 1954, was a huge hit in its native Japan so American investors desperately wanted to bring it to the USA.  Trouble was, while it did contain lots of giant, killer dinosaur-stomping-on-Tokyo scenes, it was also filled with anti-American sentiment (or rather "anti-America testing nuclear weapons in the open Pacific Ocean" sentiment).  So the American excised all that tricky dialogue, added a bunch of scenes with Raymond Burr as an American journalist who survived the Godzilla attack.  Burr narrates the film, and the Japanese scenes are shown as a flashback.

For ages, this was the version Americans were familiar with.  But in 2006, they finally released the original version in American theaters.  Criterion has released both versions of the film, and I recently watched the original Japanese version.

It's great.  The effects are pretty rough (in his review, Ebert noted that the King Kong had better effects and it was made some three decades prior) and the anti-nuke story is not at all subtle, but it totally works in its own cheeseball way.  I love a good guy in a rubber suit movie and it's a blast watching Godzilla stomp his way through Tokyo shooting radioactive air from his mouth.

Operation Finale

Drama about the hunt for notorious Holocaust-designer Adolph Eichmann who lived in Argentina after the war and was eventually captured by Mossad agents.  Stars Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley.  I'm a sucker for a good Nazi flick.

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