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Monday, April 2, 2018


Another double-billed weekend, where I saw my best comedy film in decades:

                                      Rotten Tomatoes       Box Office Mojo  My Grade
                                  Reviewers  Audiences        Weekend

The Death of Stalin         95              80                    16                      A-

Ready Player One           76              79                      1                      B

The Death of Stalin was an absolutely total surprise for me.  It is banned in Russia and some other former Soviet countries.  I can imagine how this all started:
  • Director Armando Ianucci and his co-writers sat down after many many drinks one night.
  • Okay, sez Armando, let's be totally irrational, but creative.
  • What about an historic film featuring actors outrageously the opposite of the real characters they play or a ridiculous caricature of the originals, reacting to something seriously monumental, like the death of someone like Joseph Stalin?
  • Ah, Steve Buscemi as Nikita Krushchev.  Let's not use the device of World War II films where Nazis speak authentic German in the first minute of dialogue and segue into the actual voice of the actors who usually look like their characters.  This film, actually, has mostly British actors using terms like Cheerio and the like to inject some humor at the most inappropriate times.
  • Imagine Red Square in 1953 being saluted by an armada of Tu-160M2 Blackjack long-range bombers.  Try detecting all the technical flaws, which are purposefully included.
  • Sort of like Saturday Night Live and The Big Bang Theory, let's have everyone chime in regularly with off the wall comments whenever possible, especially at solemn moments.  For this reason alone, I'll probably go see it a second time to catch what I missed.
  • Got to mention the boffo performance of Jason Isaacs (in 2016 he was also in another 100% film, Red Dog) as Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
  • Guess who Michael Palin plays?
  • Here are some appropriate reviewer comments:
    • wickedly irreverent satire
    • deep farce
    • a black comedy
    • you laugh at the absurdity of it all
    • sophisticated humor
Ready Player One, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment for me.  Sure, it earned more than twice the #2 film (Acrimony) of this weekend (where TDOS came in at #16), and I gave RPO a B grade.  However, from Steven Spielberg, I now expect much more.  At his hand were all the computer graphics and flashbacks available.  There were 29 nostalgic tracks (like Invincible, Atomic, Time After Time, Dance the Night Away, etc.), but they were cursory and not directly linked to the action.  Nothing was particularly spectacular or innovative.  I found most of the movie a vapid video game using vaguely familiar battle scenes.  If you're youngish and into this virtual entertainment mode, you'll love the movie.  I left the genre when I stopped playing Star Raiders on Atari forty years ago.  Thus, the problem could have been me.

By the way, next weekend two films open, A Quiet Place (horror thriller of mysterious creatures) and The Endless (fear and the possible reality of UFOs), both rated by Rotten Tomatoes reviewers at 100%.  I don't remember this happening in the past.


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