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The Watcher 8
Tiny Movie Reviews for The Killer / The Marvels / Neue Geschichten vom Pumuckl / The Exorcist / Hurricane Season / Man Hunt / If You Were the Last / Scooby-Doo and Krypto too / Awareness.
Tiny and not so tiny reviews for:
The Exorcist (US 1973, William Friedkin) ★★★★★
The Killer (US 2023, David Fincher) ★★★★★
Hurricane Season (US 2023, Elisa Miller) ★★★★☆
Man Hunt (US 1941, Fritz Lang) ★★★★☆
If You Were the Last (US 2023, Kristian Mercado Figueroa) ★★★★☆
Neue Geschichten vom Pumuckl (DE 2023, Marcus H. Rosenmüller) ★★★★☆
Scooby-Doo! And Krypto, Too! (US 2023, Cecilia Aranovich) ★★★☆☆
The Marvels (US 2023, Nia DaCosta) ★★☆☆☆
Awareness (Spain 2023, Daniel Benmayor) ★★☆☆☆
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The Exorcist (US 1973, William Friedkin) ★★★★★ This years halloween, they showed the directors cut of The Exorcist on the big screen and i've never seen it in theater. I've seen the film a dozen times or so, but i was blown away by how well it still works today. William Friedkins minimalistic direction style suits the story well, with a priest doubting his faith and crossing paths with a famous actress and her possessed child, culminating in the exorcism we all know.
The sparse deployment of artificial lighting in the first two acts and the near complete absence of soundtrack — besides a deep growling bass you can hear at the first signs of the demonic presence — build up to a crass contrast when the beast finally is unleashed, heads turn, soup is spilled, skin is ripped and we witness sheer terror in the final twenty minutes. A masterpiece of horror cinema that not only holds up till today, but puts all the polished possession movies of the last two decades in their place.
The Killer (US 2023, David Fincher) ★★★★★ A nameless killer botches a job, his girlfriend takes a beating and he opts for revenge.
Finchers flawless visual style and his near perfect sense of timing and soundtrack make this just as worthwhile as all the other Fincher movies. This one being a tad more ironic than others with his main character being a self centered and so convinced of his own merrits, looking down on the 'normies' and uttering philosophy on the niveau of a highschool student constantly while being surprised that, yes, he the man with the plan, the guy who “does - not - give - a - fuck“, can fail. Ultimately, Tilda Swinton teaches this wannabe Dexter, a GenXer facing age and listening to The Smiths all day long, that he's not truly doing this as a revenge for his girlfriend, but because he's pissed because he failed.
The Killer maybe is Finchers biggest middle finger yet to all those idiots out there who took Fight Club literally, and it’s great to see this finger emerging slowly from the action on screen. (Max Read has more to say about how this movie is a parody of the 4chan clowns and so-called 'sigma males').
Hurricane Season (US 2023, Elisa Miller) ★★★★☆ When some Kids find the body of a murdered 'witch', a whole lot of secrets start to unravel.
Hurricane Season is a great crime mystery about the murder of a transgender woman by some queer folks in the closet, greatly shot with some stunning images. The script lifts some narrative cleverness from Stanley Kubricks The Killing, telling its story in chapters with some scenes repeatedly filmed from the perspective of each character, which works to some great effect — but the script also looses track to some of it's sideplots, closing in on the main mystery without telling us what became of some of the minor characters.
Some scenes show cheap lighting and camera equipment, making it look like filmed with a phone, but that doesn't matter much because the camera work makes up for that with inventiveness. A minimalist, experimental soundtrack gives all of that even a quite hypnotic atmosphere and some excellent acting is the cherry on top. A pretty good movie.
Man Hunt (US 1941, Fritz Lang) ★★★★☆ British Captain Alan Thorndike on a sports hunting vacation in bavaria gets Hitler in gun sight. Hesitating to pull the trigger, he is found by nazi soldiers anyways, captured, tortured and thrown from a cliff to die. He survives and escapes to London, with nazi spies hounding him.
Man Hunt by Fritz Lang based on the great novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household is not the best of Langs work, bit surely still is a pretty good adaption close to its source material, albeit he put more weight on a romance in London he added for dramatic effect, while a good third of the novel takes place with the main character holed up in a cave. I wish i could see a more minimalistic take by Lang on the story that puts focus on the drama unfolding between the trapped guy underground and his tormentor as in the novel, but i get how this may not work as a movie and Langs decision probably was the right one. A good, maybe very good movie, but i did like the book better.
If You Were the Last (US 2023, Kristian Mercado Figueroa) ★★★★☆ Adam and Jane drift through the solar system in a broken Space Shuttle and 'debate' if they should have sex.
A really sweet romantic comedy with inventive low-fi FX held together by strong performances from Zoe Chaeo and Anthony Mackie. I loved the change of aesthetics in the third act, switching from DIY-papercraft during the space romance to the usual and in this case literal down to earth standard movie sets when they return to our planet. Lots of great little moments here and they don't shy away from a few very dark jokes, but keeping everything lighthearted all the time. A well balanced, well paced comedy with a heart and some 80s nostalgia sprinkled over it make this film a really good time.
Neue Geschichten vom Pumuckl (DE 2023, Marcus H. Rosenmüller) ★★★★☆ Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl is a classic childrens book by Ellis Kaut which was turned into a TV-series in the 80s. In it, the old carpenter Meister Eder meets a small invisible kobold who only turns visible when he's stuck or gets trapped, and when a human sees him, he has to stay with him forever. He also likes language, invents new words all the time and speaks in rhymes, because "everything that rhymes is good".
The series was a massive success back then, and after a few attempts at modernizing the material, they now launched a new iteration in which the old carpenter gets replaced by his young nephew. The rest is pretty much the same, they even rebuilt the old carpenter workshop, which originally was located in a building in Munich. The character design of Pumuckl is subtly updated with some lighting and streamlined outlines. The animation has a better flow than the originals, the kobold now doesn't really look like 'painted on celluloid', but thanks to drop shadows and depth of field he much more integrates into the frame. The biggest technical innovation of this new kids series, which's first three episodes got turned into this movie, is the recreation of Hans Clarins voice via deepfake AI technology.
Clarin was a voice-actor legend and lent his screeching and squeaking sound to a ton of audioplays and animated characters and a Pumuckl or a Hui Buh without his voice is unthinkable, as his voice pretty much defines the character, reflecting the shenanigans in the stories. The deepfake works very well. As an old fart fan of the source material, i did hear differences in pronounciation and speaking rythms from original voice actor Maxi Schafroth, but that doesn't matter much. What does matter, however, is the lack of wordplay in Pumuckls dialogue. The original series was much more inventive in this regard.
Noticable is the complete absence, at least in the first three episodes, of any digital technology. Kids and adults have no phones, there are no screens nowhere, only in one scene we see a hint of a TV-set in the background. These episodes where, even when depicting the anarchistic chaos at the hands of the small troll, tonally very laid back compared to other animated cartoons. A welcome slow down in times with continuingly rising ADHD-numbers.
Also welcome is that the film/series doesn't, at least for one episode, shy away from darkness: In the second segment the new Eder visits the grave of his old uncle whose original actor, Gustl Bayrhammer, deceased in 1992. Pumuckl doesn't grasp death and so his nephew has to explain that his old friend is no more. A childrens show that explicitly talks about death is taking its audience seriously, which is rare for kids entertainment.
I enjoyed this decidedly old fashioned Pumuckl reboot quite a bit. Pumuckl is no Pipi Longstocking, the gold standard for any kids show, but it's good, lighthearted fun with enough depth to be interesting for adults too.
Scooby-Doo! And Krypto, Too! (US 2023, Cecilia Aranovich) ★★★☆☆ Scooby Doo and the gang go to Metropolis, run from all the DC-comics villains when Krypto the superdog saves the day.
An amusing and mildly funny mashup of DC-comics lore and the Scooby Doo stuff. I've never watched any Scooby Doo before actually, but i found their french fries fetish very sympathetic and this being a cartoon for the whole family, it's a perfect fit for a lazy sunday afternoon. Made me smile, which is everything you want from such a thing.
The Marvels (US 2023, Nia DaCosta) ★★☆☆☆ Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel and Monica Rambeau fight confusing space battles.
Look, i get that Marvel wants to appeal to younger audiences which i am decidedly not. But when your best scene involves an evacuation by tentacle kittens which is pretty much unimportant for the plot, then this is not a good movie. The choreography in the fighting scenes sometimes feels off and stale, the framing often is just bad and this one, too, has the 'weak villain' problem.
The movie does have some fun moments and they do some nearly clever stuff with the power switching thingy, and it works best when it takes its tone down a notch and is just a movie about building a good team of women, but mostly, it's a confusing mess. Ms Marvel is cool, and the kittens are cool, and i do like Captain Marvel as a character. But they can't save an incoherent script in which the main plot seems completely unimportant and you never really know if there are any stakes at all. The comicbook movie fatigue continues.
Awareness (Spain 2023, Daniel Benmayor) ★★☆☆☆ A young man with the power to project illusions into the minds of people is hunted by two shady organizations on the search to find his mother.
Awareness is an off the shelf scifi-actioner with a bad script full of platitudes, and it does surprisingly unsurprising stuff with it's premise. There could be a good movie in there somewhere hidden behind the bad acting, the nonsensical turns and the inconsistencies, but that would be the way better korean film The Witch: Subversion then.