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Spider-Man: Far From Home

With Endgame finally crossing the all-time box office record this weekend and Marvel announcing the opening salvo of their next phase of movies, I got the feeling I should finally write down my Spider-Man: Far From Home thoughts. MCU tradition dictates each Avengers sequel must be followed up, perhaps a little too soon, by a bug-themed solo adventure. This time it was Spider-Man who drew the short straw and had to follow the biggest movie ever with his own smaller-scale story… at least it seems that way from the outset. Far From Home begins as a chance to decompress after the cataclysmic conclusion of Endgame but soon grows into a staging ground for the next MCU saga. And the more time I’ve had to think about it, the more exciting that seems.

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Criterion Month Day 21: The Killer

The Killer (1989)

John Woo’s The Killer is a 1989 Hong Kong action thriller starring Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee as a compassionate hitman and the reckless detective who’s out to get him. It’s an insanely stylish action movie in which the rules of reality are brushed aside by rule of awesome. As in, shooting a pistol in each hand while diving through a window might not make practical sense, but it sure is cool to watch. “Life’s cheap. It only takes one bullet,” says a character at one point, but in practice it takes more like a hundred.

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Criterion Month Day 20: House of Games

House of Games (1987)

Me choosing House of Games for Criterion Month is the equivalent of closing your eyes, throwing a pile of DVDs in the air, grabbing one, and then deciding to watch it. Before yesterday I knew slim to bupkis about this film. I knew it was the directorial debut of acclaimed playwright/Jiu-Jitsu master David Mamet and that it fit my theme of “First Time Filmmakers”. As for what the film was about and who was in it, I had no clue. I know now, and I am Jiu-Jitsu kicking myself for not discovering this movie earlier.

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Criterion Month Day 19: Withnail & I

Withnail & I (1987)

In most American films, the ’60s are either portrayed as this time defined by hippie optimism or the social and political upheaval wrought by Vietnam. So it makes sense that a British dark comedy depicting the tail end of the ’60s would be beholden to neither sensibilities. Instead, we get a grey, dreary look at the ’60s filled with the typical amount of boozing associated with the UK, and with a little bit of drug use thrown in. That said, Withnail and I still manages to capture the freedom and wildness of the ’60s, just with a bit more of a cynical angle, courtesy of an English perspective and a couple decades of perspective. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 18: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Despite only a limited knowledge of Paul Schrader’s filmography, I feel it’s safe to say that he is drawn to stories about loners making rash decisions. I think every movie I’ve seen that he’s written or directed has starred isolated characters who find themselves at odds with society. So it’s easy to imagine why Schrader would want to tell the story of Japanese author Yukio Mashima, who committed suicide after staging a failed coup d’etat fifteen years before this movie’s release. But it’s Schrader’s telling of the story that is so interesting, as it provides a template for why so many contemporary biopics seem like boring Oscar bait.

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Criterion Month Day 17: El Norte

El Norte (1983)

Man, what a week to be watching this movie. As if the constant, ever-escalating crisis at our nation’s border wasn’t already a reminder enough that we should all be a little more empathetic toward the huddled masses looking for refuge in America. Then comes along our racist-in-chief to once again make it known that any immigrant or person of color should “go back where they came from”. Meanwhile, a film like El Norte shows that for many immigrants, they can’t go back to from where they came. And even though America might not always be the land of opportunity it’s often billed as, it can offer a new start for those willing to brave the journey to get there. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 16: Smithereens

Smithereens (1982)

Criterion Month is in full effect here at Mildly Pleased. If you haven’t been checking in and stumble across this post by accident, we’re reviewing films from the Criterion Collection every day in chronological order. For my films I chose the theme “First Time Filmmakers”. A theme that not only narrows down the catalog, it gives me the opportunity to experience filmmaking in its most uninhibited form. Though it wasn’t until I watched Susan Seidelman’s punk debut Smithereens that I noticed similarities to the film’s I’ve already watched. Not all of them share a connective tissue—And God Created Woman and Night of the Living Dead being outliers—but between Shadows, Ivan’s Childhood, and now Smithereens I see how debut filmmakers most often introduce themselves to the world.

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