What's on your Daily Viewing List?

Adam Lenhardt

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Jurassic Park III
Originally Released: 07/18/2001
Watched: 09/10/2020
4K UHD digital streaming on Apple TV app via Roku Ultra

Jurassic Park III (2001) iTunes Cover


JOHN HAMMOND: Don't worry, I'm not making the same mistakes again.
IAN MALCOLM: No, you're making all new ones.

That exchange, from early on in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, pretty much sums up this movie.

On the plus side:
  • The question that plagues both of sequels is: Why would someone who survived the events of the first movie ever go back to a place where dinosaurs roam? This movie answers that question better than The Lost World did. Alan Grant isn't persuaded to go to Isla Sorna; he's persuaded to fly over Isla Sorna and serve as an aerial tour guide. By the time he realizes he's been tricked, it's too late to escape.
  • The Lost World was overburdened with plot and characters; too much going on and not enough time spent with most of the characters to care about them. This movie is a simple survival story centered around a small handful of people.
  • Where the story picked up with Alan and Ellie was interesting, with Ellie having moved on with her life and started and family and Alan unable to let his life's work that had been so trampled by Hammond's science experiment.
  • Joe Johnston had a very strong visual effects background going into this movie, and he pulls off some sequences -- like the Pteranodon aviary -- that are more complex than anything in the first two movies.
  • How do you top the T-Rex? The Spinosaurus is a compelling answer.
On the minus side:
  • This movie went into production without a script, and it shows. The first movie is one of the most tightly plotted movies in this genre I've ever seen. The second movie, for all of its excess, is still clear in its objectives and clean in its execution. This movie has a lot of solid sequences, but together the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts.
  • The craft just isn't at the same level as the first two movies. Dean Cundey and Janusz Kamiński are very different cinematographers, but they gave the first two movies scope and scale. Shelly Johnson's photography on this film feels much less inspired, drab and dreary and never quite breathtaking. The first two movies had original scores by the great John Williams, and gave us one of his most iconic themes. Don Davis's reworking of William's themes for this movie serves the fast-paced, action-driven nature of this movie, but it feels utilitarian.
  • The twist that the Kirbys are actually middle class people from rural Oklahoma doesn't work. I just didn't buy that they could put together this rescue mission without any of the hired professionals doing a more rigorous look into the Kirbys' finances.
  • Having a smaller cast of characters than the previous movie also means that you have less people to get eaten by dinosaurs. All of the deaths basically happen in the first act or two of the movie, which has the effect of lowering the stakes. Having Billy turn up at the end alive was especially egregious.
  • Like the previous two movies, this one features a kid prominently. The problem is that the Kirbys' son Eric is just less interesting than the kids in the previous movies. Hammond's grandchildren and Malcolm's daughter were each really distinct from one another, and an interesting mix of intelligence, competence, immaturity, and vulnerability. Eric somehow survived on his own for eight weeks, so he doesn't really need the adult characters. He exists as basically a MacGuffin to get the plot moving. And Grant resolved his issues with children in the first movie, so Eric wasn't a mechanism for growth in the way that Lex and Tim were.
  • The ending is a complete mess. The Kirbys couldn't get any support to rescue their son, but Ellie is able to summon half the Pacific fleet on the basis of a very noisy phone call where their location was never actually stated? Give me a break.
* * *​

Gretel & Hansel
Originally Released: 01/31/2020
Watched: 09/10/2020
1080P Blu-ray disc, upscaled to 4K via Panasonic DP-UB820

Gretel & Hansel (2020) Poster


I used a freebie rental from Redbox for this one. It has the same virtues and vices as all Osgood Perkins films: incredible style, but not enough substance. His movies aren't long, but they feel long because of the way he paces them and the way he holds onto shots.

That being said, I enjoyed this one probably the most yet. Other than the respective ages of Hansel and Gretel, the death of the woodcutter prior to the start of the film, and the nature of Gretel's servitude to the Witch, it is very faithful to the original Grimm fairy tale.

One thing that many modern adaptations miss, but this one understands acutely, is that the tale of Hansel and Gretel was a product of the Late Middle Ages, where famines and the child abandonment that resulted were common. Why venture into the Witch's house, when it permeates danger? Because it's the least nightmarish place these children have yet encountered.

Sophia Lillis's performance snuck up on me. She has such a flat affect as Gretel that I spent a good chunk of the movie thinking her performance was uncharacteristically wooden. Only as the movie reached its climax did I understand what I was seeing.

Alice Krige is also really good as both menace and mentor.

Some of the shot compositions, especially when the children are lost in the woods, feels straight out of a nightmare -- beautiful and terrible at once.
 
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HawksFord

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Maurice
Wagon Master (1950) - I love this John Ford western so much, but this was our first time watching the Warner Archive release that came out last year. It's a beautifully structured and filmed story about a wagon train headed west and a gang of killers on the run. There are no big name stars but a host of great character actors. There are so many great scenes here: the sudden violence of the opening, shots of the wagon train in motion, an encounter with the Navajo, the depravity of the Clegg family. The commentary track has Peter Bogdanovich and Harry Carey Jr. along with clips from a 1966 interview with John Ford, and I found it deepened my appreciation for a film I already love. I'm very happy I picked up this blu-ray.
 

bujaki

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The Story of Dr. Wassell (TCM) 1944. De Mille's contribution to the war effort and, as such, an atypical product. No sex, no religion. Some muted battle scenes were thrown in, but this is mostly the story of a doctor who makes a heroic stab at saving his wounded men from being captured by the Japanese invading forces in Java. The Dutch come out as important allies. It's slow moving and earnest, but it does have many good actors. The print shown is not restored but has good color. I hadn't seen this rare De Mille since '71-'72.
Knife of Ice (Severin BD) 1972. The fourth and last collaboration between Lenzi and Carroll Baker. She plays a traumatized mute character who's terrorized (or is she?). She carries it off very well and stays clothed during the film. Atmospheric and suspenseful with a twist at the end. Fine transfer.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Peacock) 1955. Season One, First 2 episodes.
 
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Robert Crawford

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The Story of Dr. Wassell (TCM) 1944. De Mille's contribution to the war effort and, as such, an atypical product. No sex, no religion. Some muted battle scenes were thrown in, but this is mostly the story of a doctor who makes a heroic stab at saving his wounded men from being captured by the Japanese invading forces in Java. The Dutch come out as important allies. It's slow moving and earnest, but it does have many good actors. The print shown is not restored but has good color. I hadn't seen this rare De Mille since '71-'72.
Yeah, I watched this today too. It looks like the same transfer I recorded off of TCM, some years ago. A solid movie.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Jurassic World
Originally Released: 06/12/2015
Watched: 09/11/2020
4K UHD digital streaming on Apple TV app via Roku Ultra

Jurassic World (2015) iTunes Cover


On the plus side:
  • After the slimmed down and streamlined third movie, it was nice to see the scope and ambition return for this reboot/sequel. It feels like a really big movie in the same way both of the Spielberg films did.
  • The nature of the first movie's story meant that we never actually got to see John Hammond's dream realized. Here we not only see the park up and running, but actually a few years in when all of the kinks have been worked out. And Jurassic World is to Jurassic Park what Disney World is to Disneyland; the scale is just so much bigger. The movie spends a lot of time on the logistics and mechanisms for how you have a park serving thousands or even tens of thousands of people at a time on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and I found that stuff fascinating.
  • After a bit role as Dr. Wu in the original film, this movie gives BD Wong and the character more interesting notes to play. Henry Wu in this film feels a lot more like Doctor Moreau. He didn't have any qualms about creating a custom dinosaur to his employers' specifications, because in his view everything he'd done had been a custom creation. Even during the John Hammond era, when the goal was to resurrect the dinosaurs as closely as possible, there was quite a bit of DNA from modern day animals to fill in the gaps. It also provides a nice explanation for why the dinosaurs don't line up with all of the new information that has been gathered since the first movie came out; the foreign DNA explains the differences.
  • The score, while not up to the standard of the first two movies, is a significant step up from the third movie's score.
On the minus side:
  • The characters all feel straight out of a Saturday morning matinee serial from the 1930s. Both in terms of the archetypes -- the roguish adventurer, the buttoned up ice queen, the moody teenager, the incompetent leader, and so on. The previous movies at least made an effort to make the characters feel distinctive.
  • All of the plot points feel recycled from other movies, too.
 

Dave Moritz

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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916)
Originally Released: December 24, 1916
Runtime: 1h 45m
Watched: 09/11/2020
HD Blu-ray taken from new 4K restoration

20200911_190018c.jpg

This is not only the first silent movie I have ever watched but the only silent movie I have purchased so far. It is by far the oldest movie that is currently in my library.

Going into my absolute first viewing of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea I was not sure what I was getting and how good it would look. Even factoring in that this title is almost 104 years old I was very surprised in the effort put into this film. The story itself is done well and still comes across well considering there is no spoken lines and basically music for background. It buy no means competes with what was even done in the 70's - 80's and beyond but for 1916 it is very impressive. And given the age of the print and what generation down the chain the latest restoration was done it is amazing we have what we have. There are many scenes that look good and there are some scenes underwater that are on the bad side. I am not sure you will find a better transfer/presentation of this movie anywhere given that this is a newer 4K restoration. This must have been ground breaking film making when it came out and I am sure pushed the limits of what was possible back in 1916.

I found the store to be well done from start to finish which comes through despite no spoken words. Sets and wardrobe where surprisingly well done and more detail than I though there would be for a film this old. I hope that many here who enjoy the art of film making and movies from all eras will give this title a spin. Would love to hear from you if you get this title and tell us what you thought about it. Sometime today I will be watching the Criterion release of War Of The Worlds on blu-ray.
 
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bujaki

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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916)
Originally Released: December 24, 1916
Runtime: 1h 45m
Watched: 09/11/2020
HD Blu-ray taken from new 4K restoration

View attachment 78343

This is not only the first silent movie I have ever watched but the only silent movie I have purchased so far. It is by far the oldest movie that is currently in my library.

Going into my absolute first viewing of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea I was not sure what I was getting and how good it would look. Even factoring in that this title is almost 104 years old I was very surprised in the effort put into this film. The story itself is done well and still comes across well considering there is no spoken lines and basically music for background. It buy no means competes with what was even done in the 70's - 80's and beyond but for 1916 it is very impressive. And given the age of the print and what generation down the chain the latest restoration was done it is amazing we have what we have. There are many scenes that look good and there are some scenes underwater that are on the bad side. I am not sure you will find a better transfer/presentation of this movie anywhere given that this is a newer 4K restoration. This must have been ground breaking film making when it came out and I am sure pushed the limits of what was possible back in 1916.

I found the store to be well done from start to finish which comes through despite no spoken words. Sets and wardrobe where surprisingly well done and more detail than I though there would be for a film this old. I hope that many here who enjoy the art of film making and movies from all eras will give this title a spin. Would love to hear from you if you get this title and tell us what you thought about it. Sometime today I will be watching the Criterion release of War Of The Worlds on blu-ray.
I saw this at MoMA in the '70s and was sufficiently impressed by it to want to buy it soon so I can watch it again. Universal spent a lot of money in its production way back when and it shows.
 
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bujaki

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In the Empty City (TCM app) 2004. From Angola, directed by Maria J. Ganga. War-torn Angola. 11-year-old boy is air lifted from his native town to Luanda by a religious group. He escapes into the city and meets many people from different groups. Eventually he loses his innocence leading to tragic consequences. The director coaxes fine performances from a cast of non-professional children. The scenes of life among the fishing community or among prostitutes are captured in almost neo-realist fashion. I'm glad I caught this fine film.
Pan-Americana (TCM app) 1945. RKO's nod to FDR's Good Neighbor policy. A romantic story with a string of musical numbers highlighting Latin-American artists. Eve Arden is always a welcome presence. Jane Greer's first film (sigh). Terribly dupey print from the telecine days.
Unexpected Uncle (TCM app) 1941. Charming Anne Shirley and always excellent Charles Coburn are paired in a comedy that allows them to shine. There's not much more to it than them, but it makes for a pleasant trip.
Jack of Diamonds (TCM app) 1967. A pale (?) George Hamilton plays a cat burglar. An exciting heist takes place near the end. Good cast includes Joseph Cotten and Maurice Evans. Playing themselves: Zsa Zsa, Lilli Palmer and Carroll Baker.
 
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Robin9

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Robin
Today I watched The Day The Earth Caught Fire which I saw when it first came out. It's still a really good film even though special effects can now be achieved far more convincingly.
 
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Mike Frezon

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Rensselaer, NY
Peg and I have been binging a lot of seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race.

But today we watched:



While we both enjoyed it, it didn't come close to our expectations (based on our love for The Straight Story). Maybe it wasn't fair to expect too much from a blind buy.

We both had questions about how the story was told and why certain characters existed and why we were supposed to care about the protagonist. He never even tried to reform himself so his character never changed or developed in any way.
He was a criminal, got out of jail, committed a crime and went back to jail. The end.

If it wasn't for Farnsworth's likeability, the movie would have been close to a complete waste. And the Chieftains were an odd choice for me with regard to the score..although the use of Barbara Allen when Miner had to break the news to his girl that he was leaving town was terrific.

All the advertising about the film (33 years in San Quentin and released into the 20th Century) gave us the impression that we would see all the technological changes of the time through his eyes. Outside of a few odd choices (an apple peeler, a horseless carriage, an intercontinental railroad, no more Gold Rush) there really wasn't much of that at all.

The restoration feature was very specific and interesting. I thought the film looked and sounded great.
 
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Matt Hough

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I spent the evening watching Anna Karenina in HD streaming via Movies Anywhere. Can't believe Garbo wasn't Oscar nominated for this performance. She won the NY Film Critics prize that year for the film. It was the year before the Academy instituted the supporting acting categories. Had they been in place for 1935, surely Basil Rathbone would have been nominated for his steely, forceful performance.
 
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Dave Moritz

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September 12th, 2020 Saturday

War Of The Worlds (1953)
HD Blu-ray / Criterion
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 upmixed to Auro 2D 7.1

20200912_132108.jpg



Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
4K Blu-ray / HDR10 / Upscaled 4K
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
DTS-X 7.1.4

Out of the franchise the original Jurassic Park is still my favorite and I love the DTS track as well.

30d226c85acf93a983534873fa18922c.jpg



San Andreas
4K Blu-ray / HDR10 / Upscaled 4K
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Dolby Atmos to Auro 3D 7.1.4

san_andreas_movie_poster_1.jpg


1ab940af-c252-410d-a9eb-75539e8d4df5.jpg
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Originally Released: 06/22/2018
Watched: 09/12/2020
4K UHD disc via Panasonic DP-UB820

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) UHD Cover


This movie has the worst reviews of the franchise, and for the life of me, I can't understand why. It's my second favorite in the franchise after the original Jurassic Park, and the sequel that The Lost World should have been. The first movie opened a Pandora's box with its genetic technology, and this is the first movie since then to really grapple with the ramifications and consequences of that.

It's a strangely bifurcated movie, with the first hour dedicated to wrapping up the business on Isla Nublar and the second hour breaking new ground entirely. Both halves of the movie really work for me.

The movie picks up with Owen Grady and Claire Dearing in very different places. Grady, the ultra-macho animal wrangler in the previous film, has embraced a quiet life building a house off the grid in the middle of nowhere. Dearing, the prickly and ultra-polished corporate administrator, has become an idealistic advocate for the dinosaurs, pressing her case from and underfunded and overwhelmed nonprofit. Do these transitions feel organic? No, they do not. But Grady and Dearing were more types than actual characters in the previous film, and the discordant notes this time around help complicate them and further define them.

Claire's two new assistants, the veterinarian Zia played by Daniella Pineda and the systems analyst Franklin played by Justice Smith, are improvements over any of the characters from the previous movie. Zia is a former Marine, fearless and aggressive. Franklin is a former IT technician, fearful and and reticent. Pineda and Smith play really well off each other, their opposing energies providing a stark and amusing contrast, while each performs confidently in very challenging circumstances.

Ted Levine plays the latest mercenary/big game hunter to go up against John Hammond's creations. He brings a very different energy than the characters who filled this role in the earlier movies. He's an amoral character, to say the least, but he's not a dick. He treats people well until he has a reason not to. He's been tasked with an unpleasant job, and he's going to complete it successfully, whatever that entails.

Probably the biggest ask of the movie is to accept that major corporations would build two theme parks on an island with an active volcano on it. True, it was dormant when those parks were built, but it's still a shortsighted plan. The movie's desperate plan to save the dinosaurs from being wiped out again also doesn't explain why the Isla Sorna would also be wiped out.

But what that volcano provides is a means for the movie to present audiences with a glimpse of what the extinction of the dinosaurs might have really been like. The giant herbivore standing at the water's edge as the ship pulls away, its entire world succumbing to fire and ash behind it, is quite the affecting image.

Rafe Spall plays Eli Mills as a disappointed idealist. Mills has come to see the vision of Hammond and Lockwood as exploitative, come to be repulsed by their decision to play God. But rather than extricate himself from the situation, he's thrown up his hands, accepted that the rubicon has been crossed, determined that there's no going back, and decided to get as much as he can for himself as the world circles the drain.

Every Jurassic Park movie has at least one kid character featured prominently. Maisie Lockwood, played by Isabella Sermon, is the best of all of them. Lex and Tim in the first movie were fun, but they were there to serve Alan Grant's story. Kelly in the second movie was fun, but she was there to serve Ian Malcolm's story. Eric in the third movie was blah, and he basically only existed to get everybody onto Isla Sorna. Zach and Gray were blah in the fourth movie, too, and basically only existed to provide another point of view for the action and to make the stakes a bit more personal for Claire Dearing. Maisie is both less obtrusive than the other children in the franchise, and more essential to the story being told.

If there is one consistent theme that carries through the five movies, it is the danger of man's hubris. Maisie represents the pinnacle of that hubris, the crossing of a line that even John Hammond wasn't willing to cross. And the nature of her existence is such that she views all of Henry Wu's other creations from a very different perspective than the other characters. Whether it's business interests like InGen, or philosophers like Ian Malcolm, or politicians like the United States Congress, Hammond's dinosaurs were seen as a separate consideration from all other creatures on Planet Earth; they were created by man, so they were subject to man's whims. Once Maisie understands the truth of her origins, she cannot make that clean and easy distinction.

Which leads us to the ending that the previous three movies tiptoed right up to but ultimately backed away from: The dinosaurs are loose on the mainland, and humanity will need to figure out a way to coexist with them. That's a huge shift from what this franchise has been up to this point, and I'm not sure I would have bought any other character making the decision to let it happen. If the de-extinction of the dinosaurs leads to humanity's annihilation, it will be because of Benjamin Lockwood's greed and arrogance.
 

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