JWM SPOOKATHON 2019: The Thing (1982)

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A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. (IMDb)
Here’s the thing (sorry not sorry), this would’ve been a good movie even without those glorious and gutsy practical effects: the slow-burning plot of discovery and suspicion, the freezing Antarctica setting, the simmering tension and subtle chills of the ambiguous ending (“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while, see what happens?”). But then you add in a cavity with teeth (hah), a spider-head (“You gotta be fuckin’ kidding”), and an octopus dog and The Thing goes from good to great.
8/10 (Great)

CREEPY QUOTE:
MacReady: Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be. Right now that maybe one or two of us. By spring, it could be all of us.

SPOOKY STILL:
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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

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A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. (IMDb)
Keep it about Rick’s friendship with Cliff and him battling insecurity while trying to recharge his career and this would’ve been great; the leading men are excellent and the movie set scenes are engaging. Unfortunately this compelling arc is smothered by endless drawn-out scenes that do nothing but unload historical references (the pointless narration near the end is painful) and show off impressive production design. And so even the wild climax felt empty because nothing built up to it.
6.5/10 (Alright)
SECOND WATCH (12/02/19):
On first blush it’s nicely crafted but its one compelling arc (Rick’s disillusionment/friendship with Cliff) is squashed by a bevy of boring referential scenes disconnected from the shocking but empty climax. Upon closer inspection, many delightful details emerge to reveal a fascinating web of narratives meta-commenting on storytelling and identity–yet they also make plain the film’s ugly misogyny, misguided revisionism, and gross glorification of cowboy violence, especially in the climax.
7/10 (Good)

 

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

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A dramatization of the disaster in April 2010, when the offshore drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded, resulting in the worst oil spill in American history. (IMDb)
The build-up is perfect, right from the chilling opening “spoiler” audio: Excellent foreshadows (see the coke can) and an eerie soundtrack keep you on the edge of your seat amidst the well-crafted sense of normalcy (the jargon-heavy dialogue does a great job here), with the classic tension between money and safety excellently executed (Malkovich’s Vidrine is a chilling adversary). The explosion-heavy scenes that follow start to tire, but an emotionally potent epilogue is suitably cathartic.
8/10 (Great)

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. (IMDb)
A patient, layered narrative does a remarkable job at developing our beloved characters (though some arcs are better than others: Rocket, Yondu, and the touching epilogue > the crazy sisters). Add in shiploads of comedy (not all of it lands, but Drax is always a delight) and this sequel’s almost more like a quirky dramedy set in a colourful 80s-tinged space setting than a superhero flick at times (standard “blow it up” climax aside), which is refreshing–as is the more subtly sinister villain.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

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Two childhood friends find themselves forced to become enemies. (IMDb)
The “friends forced to be enemies” premise would have resonated more if the film had dwelt more on the fox and the hound being both. As it is, it’s mostly forgettable fluff with a few good action sequences and hardly any humour, and with its unmemorable–unusually so by Disney standards–secondary characters and songs there’s not much to distract from it. Only the ever-so-slight side-plot with the odd-couple birds and the caterpillar ever really catches your fancy after all is said and done.
6/10 (Mediocre)

The Art of the Steal (2013)

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Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist. (IMDb)
There’s good humour here, but the editing feels like a cheap Ocean’s knock-off, the cast’s charisma and chemistry is inconsistent (Dillon is good and Baruchel does his job as comic relief, but Welsh is annoying, “Lola” inconsequential, and Russell overacts), the heists, while fun, are too brief, and the final twist has unconvincing build-up, is revealed much too quickly to revel in, and is anti-climatic to boot. There’s enough here to keep a caper film fan interested, but not enough to satisfy.
6/10 (Mediocre)