CBS vs Paramount? Old Star Trek vs Confused Star Trek? ST Discovery = Epic fail? and JUSTICE LEAGUE?!

 

Some Times you wonder how what is seemingly obvious  is utterly lost on people in positions of power.

VALERIAN movie? Great concept on paper , great visuals, the leads are as interesting as watching paint dry. I would not in a million years have chosen those two people to helm that movie. They have no visual interest.

The latest Universal bomb in THE MUMMY, completely predictable. White Egyptians, unless they are Boris Karloff, just never a good idea.

Casting and visuals and chemistry is still a HUGE part of what makes a film or show work and why it is dead on arrival.

It is one reason the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie is despite everything they are trying to course correct and do right, can’t fix intrinsic issues they have done wrong. The comic book decided to put CYBORG in the comic, not because he is a good character, but because he hit three demographics they throught would make for both multiple diversity streams and good merchandising. He was a Black crippled robot.

TRANSFORMERS has proven that robots sell, all day long. On top of that being able to add a character of color to the blindingly white DC universe, ticks that box, and making him a cripple, ticks the handicapped audience. A lucrative and growing segment condsidering how many young men and women this country sends overseas to mutilate and get mutilated.

Here is the issue though. It doesn’t make sense for CYBORG to be in the Justice League, beyond tokenism and a blatant money grab.

From a story point it makes NO SENSE in the comics, and it makes no sense in the movies. I’m all for characters of color toning down the lilly whitness of the Justice League, but not awful characters. The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon has shown a great character of color that deserves to be in the Justice League and works great in the Justice League… John Stewart, The Green Lantern, And you know what, he also has kick ass powers and is more than a walking toaster. The late great Dwayne McDuffie made John Stewart a great character, and the Justice League a great AND diverse team without sacrificing quality or common sense. They were great BECAUSE of that diversity and love that Dwayne imbued that series with, that made it great.

Greatness is a thing that seldoms gets said in the same sentence as JUSTICE LEAGUE. Unlike the AVENGERS that has a few notable stories you can hand people to sell them on these characters for live action movies, most notably Mark Millar’s THE ULTIMATES  followed by Steve Englehart’s, Gerry Conway’s, Jim Shooter’s and Kurt Busiek’s runs; the JUSTICE LEAGUE has very little that holds up, or is of appeal to a movie going audience. Outside of deconstructive and apocalyptic stories, the twilight of the Gods type mythology such as KINGDOM COME, and some Morrison work, there are almost no great JUSTICE LEAGUE comic stories. The best the JUSTICE LEAGUE has ever been is in the McDugffie helmed cartoon.

The current comic and the current movie unfortunately, has learned nothing from the late McDuffie’s lead.

Add to that the Cyborg and Flash costumes are crap (didn’t you learn anything from the GREEN LANTERN train-wreck about CGI costumes) and you have a movie that could have been great, crippled by by people who are going to lose dollars to save pennies.  People ignorant or uncaring of the part visual chemistry plays in whether a thing works or not.

And that brings us back to Star Trek.

 

Looking at the cast photo of Star Trek Discovery… that cast has no visual interest, no chemistry. The same issue suffered by THE ENTERPRISE cast, and to a lesser degree the VOYAGER cast. There was no joy or interst or chemistry in this combination of people.

Watching  the latest STAR TREK DISCOVERY Trailer, I find the trailer interesting, however the jury is out on whether that translates into good. There was no excitement in that trailer, a bunch of uninteresting looking people, no visual chemistry or excitement to them, and a general air of uninterst and lack of joy in the whole.

You are in effing space, that should be awe-inspiring to the cast and to the viewer. But all that comes across in that trailer is how dreary everything is. The one male lead, who I know to be a good actor, he perhaps has never been the most rousing actor, and whether lead or not, you need somone immediately that grabs your eye, and you can say, yep, here is a hero or man of action, or somone who can command a screen and command the attention of viewers. Without a doubt great scenery chewing actors is the hallmark of great Star Trek, whether it is William Shatner, or Leonard Nimoy or Patrick Stewart or Johnathan Fraker or Avery Brooks or Michael Dorn.

The star of this series, is a lead actress, and she is clearly charismatic, but you can’t act in a bubble, without that chemistry  of clicking actors around you and fun plots, it is just dreariness. And that’s what came across in the trailer… dreariness.

And a lot of changes for change sake.

The change to the Kilngons… strikes me as… foolhardy at best. THE NEXT GENERATION hit a home run in being able to make an interesting but crude visual race of the Kilingons… better. Not just better, but a rousing transcendent success.  The way the Original Series hit a home run with the Vulcans and the Romulans, the Next Generation hit that Home Run with the Klingons.

You don’t fix what isn’t broken. And in this case DISCOVERY’s redesign of the Klingons just seems change for change sake, that tears down a success, and what could have been an easy inroad to the series for fans craving the popular Klingons, becomes instead a detriment.

Just poor, poor thinking.

Along with that the idea of trying to make American audiences pay to see this series that initially needs as much groundswell of support it can get, is just idiocy. Out of the gate you set an antagonistic relationship between show and audience.

I will, needless to say, not be paying for this show, no more than I had any intest in paying to see VALERIAN or THE MUMMY.

But I will keep abreast of it through online reviews and podcasts, and I hope it can prove me wrong. But if Paramount stick to the visuals and that tone and that cast, that seems clearly set in stone for the first year….you may have an interesting SciFi show, but you arguably wont have a good show, and you definitely won’t have a great Star trek show.

Paramount instued of suing the AXANAR fan film, should have gone with that filmmaker to produce their new show. It is obvious that the fan films have more heart, intelligence, and fun, and understanding of what makes good Star Trek than Paramount has.

PARAMOUNT’s rebooted STAR TREK films, a case of diminishing returns, from the excellence of the first one, to the too self indulgent but still great second film, to the atrocious third film; points to a company that is in desperate need of course correction. And that same folly and arrogant stupidity that highlights their dealings with the fans, mars their handling of this latest television show.

For more on this, I want to direct you to a MIDNIGHT’S EDGE YouTube video, that revealed some of the reasons for Paramount’s mishandling of the latest Star Trek property and where CBS fits in. It’s a riveting and informative bit of reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

Rating the Bigfoot Movies! Best and Worst!

BIGFOOT MOVIES TO SEEK OUT:

WILLOW CREEK – Suffers from annoying boyfriend syndrome, a failing too common to too many of these films with women being talked into dangerous situations, and worse being talked into remaining in the dangerous situations by boyfriends completely oblivious or making inane excuses for them remaining rather than rushing them to safety.

WILLOW CREEK for the majority is this annoying dynamic. So worth a watch if you are a Bigfoot movie fan/completest, but this due to how stupid the characters are written is far from satisfying. Grade: C-/D.

EXISTS is Big Foot movie done probably as well as it can be done. While you do have the obligatory idiot, you also have more well rounded and intriguing characters, and some sustained and exciting Bigfoot action. And a great and exciting if harrowing ending. Well worth owning on Blu-ray. Grade: B+

THE WOODSMAN- Is a horror takeoff on SURVIVOR MAN, as are many of these ‘Something in the woods’ films. Sporting only 2 actors, and only a brief glimpse of the rock thrower. Worth a  look, but relatively forgettable and an abrupt unsatisfying end. Always a bad sign when the poster is far more interesting than the actual movie.  Grade: C-/D-.

STOMPING GROUND – is up there with IT EXISTS with being a solid entertaining look of friends sharing their bonding time with something else. A great ending. B+.

LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK- This is the one that started the BigFoot hype and with its documentary  meets DELIVERANCE style, continues to have a compelling vibe. Grade: C-.

SOMETHING IN THE WOODS – low budget 2016 film is convincingly done and engrossing tale of a man trying to protect his family and farm from something… unrelenting. Very good film. Grade: B/B-.

THE SIGHTING – For those looking for a twist on the standard BigFoot lore, this film fits the bill. Quite liked it. B/B+.

BIGFOOT (1969) – Speaking of twists. This forgotten 1969 film features buxom beauties falling into the clutches of a Bigfoot who wants attention paid to something besides his foot, and the biker boyfriends who must save them. The type of outlandish, trippy film that only the waning days of the swinging 60s could provide. Grade:  C/C+. Worth a Look and several shakes of the head.

CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976)

HUNTING GROUNDS (2017) – If you are sick of this off camera stuff most of these other films do, than this is the film for you. You will see the Bigfoot clearly and often, and doing things the other films would leave to your imagination. Where this one trips itself up is the human element. But unevenness aside, well worth a look. Grade: C/C+.

WILD MEN (2017) – Another Reality show goes hunting for BigFoot type movie. This one is quite good and fun. Grade: B.

 

-BIGFOOT THE LOST COAST TAPES rivals EXISTS as one of the best BIGFOOT movies. And it has one of the more unique and impressive endings. Strongly recommended. Grade: B+.

 

You can catch many of these films courtesy of AMAZON PRIME and/or HULU and the following are worthy of owning on DVD/Blu-Ray:

Exists [DVD + Digital]

Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes BD/Combo [Blu-ray]

 

BIGFOOT MOVIES TO AVOID:

FIELD FREAK

BLACK WATER SASQUATCH

NIGHT WALKER

BIGFOOT VS DB COOPER

LOST WOODS

1313 BIGFOOT ISLAND

BOGGY CREEK (2010)

DOGMAN

HOLLER CREEK CANYON

PREDATORY INSTINCT

BIGFOOT HORROR CAMP

BIGFOOT WARS

BIGFOOT VS ZOMBIES

Best BATMAN BLACK PANTHER WONDER WOMAN Statues Collectibles! Make Great Gifts!

 

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THE LAST WORD : SUPERMAN II Richard Lester Theatrical Version vs SUPERMAN II Richard Donner Cut!!

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Netflix is showing the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II. Anyone who tries to tell you the Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II is better than the Richard Lester theatrical version is quite frankly deranged.

Okay maybe that’s a bit harsh (no it is not) but while there are pieces of the so-called Donner Cut that would be nice added into the theatrical cut, most notably the Marlon Brando scenes in the fortress of Solitude are essential, and the extended scenes with Luthor and Ms. Teschmacher are just a lot of fun (I strongly recommend getting the DVDs of both and cutting those scenes into the Theatrical cut to create something I call the improved cut. It will wow you).

as a whole the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II is vastly superior and more satisfying then the Donner cut. Full stop.

The opening is vastly superior in the theatrical cut, as is the reason for Zod’s escape from the phantom zone. And the ending of the Donner cut, SUPERMAN turning back time again, is just lazy and stupid, from a creative level, and makes the memory wiping kiss in the theatrical version look like a stroke of genius.

And yes the theatrical version takes liberties with Superman’s powers, force beams, mirage powers, using the shield on his suit as a net, but I never had a problem with these scenes… because they were fun. And really, in for a penny… in for a pound, once you sign off on heat vision and cold breath, then mirage powers, and force blasts, and memory wiping… seems like just enjoying the ride.

Both versions skate over the final reckoning of the defeated villains, so neither version is perfect, but of the two the theatrical version is head and shoulders better. In my opinion Donner wanting to end the 2nd movie with the same unsatisfying gimmick he ended the first film with, like I said, is just lazy writing and unimaginative thinking. I could clearly see based on that, why the studios replaced him.

Final verdict?

The Richard Lester SUPERMAN II theatrical film, trounces the Richard Donner SUPERMAN II Cut by a mile.

Get your copy here:

 

Superman II (Two-Disc Special Edition)

TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker

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Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.

 

 

Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe. :).

 

 

But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)

 

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LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.

 

 

The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.

 

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But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.

 

Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.

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Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.

 

There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.

 

 

I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.

 

 

And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.

 

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One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.

 

 

And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.

 

 

I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.

 

 

Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.

 

Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.

 

 

Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.

 

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So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.

 

 

It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.

 

Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.

 

 

However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.

 

If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.

 

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does. :).

 

But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.

 

Movie Throwdown : EX MACHINA vs THE UNCANNY

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While Alex Garland’s debut film EX MACHINA was the AI film receiving all the acclaim in 2015, it was the relatively unseen film the UNCANNY by Matt Leutwyler that I found the superior film.

Now while visually it is the sexy and sleek and futuristic visuals of EX MACHINA that are poster memorable, it is The story of THE UNCANNY, that I find is the more compelling, haunting and ultimately daring and rewarding film.

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While I liked EX MACHINA, particularly the great performance of the unrecognizable Oscar Isaac of STAR WARS fame, and enjoyed its beautiful visuals; it is the UNCANNY that I really enjoyed, and see myself coming back to. But both films are great additions to the genre, followers in the footsteps of ShellEy, and are wonderful cautionary takes on the ramifications of the unchecked hubris of science.

 

Final Grades:
EX MACHINA – B- Ex Machina (Blu-ray + Digital HD)

UNCANNY – B+ Uncanny DVD on Sale!

Both films are available to try before you buy, EX MACHINA is on Amazon Prime and UNCANNY is on Netflix.

Enjoy!

Tarantino HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road Trip Review

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Quentin Tarantino can be a bit of a provocateur, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but can be off-putting to some, but he is also a great filmmaker.

He is a visionary in the best sense of that word. And there is always a battle between the provocateur aspect to his nature and the filmmaker, and depending on the successfulness of that mixture, will in large part determine whether his film falls on the good or the great scale.

In the HATEFUL EIGHT, I think he gets that mixture right in a way that rockets it right up there, with his best films.

I saw this movie the day after seeing STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, an impressively written and directed effort by any standards, and while I found it a very good film, HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road-Trip Edition felt a great film.

Now visually the STAR WARS film, seen at one of the few IMAX Laser 3D theaters, was the more impressive viewing experience.  The theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in, THE AFI at SILVER SPRING, was a very good theater, and shown in 70 mm, however outside of the increased breadth of the picture I could not tell this was a 70mm film.

Part of this I want to chalk up to being too far from the screen, or the screen not large enough to really dominate the room, it was a big room, but ultimately a well designed movie theater should give you a great picture from any room in the theater, the back of the theater or the front.

I felt the Airbus IMAX Theater in Chantilly Virginia got this RIGHT, and not so much the theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in. Again I don’t think the film projected bad, it looked great in fact, however as someone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA reissued in 70mm, that is the rich, flooded detail and sensory overload i was expecting. None of that was present here in the HATEFUL EIGHT.

aside from it being a wider picture, I could not tell it wasn’t just typical 35mm, stretched a bit.  I know Quentin and the Weinstein’s retrofitted some theaters to showcase the film in 70mm, unfortunately at the theater I was in they either didn’t test or care how the movie presented to those in the more distant seats.

Is it a 70mm experience from the worst seat in the house? If the answer is no, then you need to do something.

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That criticism however is not on Tarantino, but rather the individual theater owners to insure they are providing the spectacle they are advertising.

I really enjoyed the HATEFUL EIGHT, but it’s 70mm nature, was unfortunately undetectable.  I would have loved to see this film at someplace like the Airbus to see if it’s 70mm nature came across. BEcause i wholeheartedly support tarantino’s push to make 70mm relevant in an age of digital.  I just think we need to do a little more quality control at the individual theaters to ensure viewers are getting that 70mm experience.

But enough about the film stock and visuals, what about the sound?

From Ennio Morricone’s first score for a western in decades, I was of course expecting something good, what we got was great. That score is magnificent, the work of a genius, undimmed by age.

I, in the theater, knew I wanted to purchase that score. That rarely happens to me.

 

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The same can be said of Tarantino’s film in total. HATEFUL EIGHT is an experience, a sometimes uncomfortable, and ugly experience, (man do they say the N word a lot) but without doubt a captivating, and memorable experience. You want to be in this place, with these dire and dangerous people, these ‘HATEFUL EIGHT ‘, to see where the road leads them.

Being a Western, that most iconic and cemented of genres, you know if not when the road will end, that blood will be waiting there at that end.

And there is blood, in extraordinary quantities, at the end of THE HATEFUL EIGHT. But there is more, there is pathos, and regret, and humor, and insight.

Tarantino is not afraid to probe the unexamined questions and uncrossed divide of race and class in our past and our present, our peers and ourselves, but to always do it without losing the narrative purpose, without losing the ability to entertain, is a tricky tightrope to walk.

For a film to be both important and fun to watch is a rare beast, and one the Academy is reluctant to nominate, but HATEFUL EIGHT is such a beast.

I watched the closing credits come across with that wonderful final song, and I thought there at the end of the movie, what I thought during the movie… this is a masterpiece.
Grade: A-.

 

 

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