peteg's blog - noise - movies

Heat

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nth time around for large n. Michael Mann's masterpiece. Still #123 in the IMDB top-250.

The African Queen

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More John Huston. Second time around. Apparently Eastwood made a movie about Huston's desire to go big game hunting while making this.

The spy who came in from the cold

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Second time around. More Richard Burton.

Heaven Knows, Mr Allison

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A John Huston and Deborah Kerr jag from The Night of the Iguana. Robert Mitchum shares the lead. A U.S. marine and Irish nun find themselves stranded on a South Pacific Island and survive occupation by Japanese troops until the Americans arrive. It's all very proper and things go as expected with no offence given to the USMC or Catholic Church. Reading it another way it's a backhander: the skills of a marine will help you survive but may not get you the girl. There's some great cinematography. It obviously parallels Huston's The African Queen.

Crazy Heart

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Second time around. Prompted by A Star is Born. Hmm.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Excessive Marvel completism. This one got massively advertised on buses and bus stops in Sydney. Larry Fishburne! Why didn’t you say? Michelle Pfeiffer! Approximately as vacuous as the first one.

Manohla Dargis.

Ant-Man

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Marvel completism. Martin Donovan! Why didn't you say? Michael Douglas plays the same old tired note. Paul Rudd is pleasantly low key but I don't find him as funny as the movie needs me to. Evangeline Lilly is all face acting. If they'd made more of the fact most ants are female (the winged ones are typically males or queens) this may have been hailed as the first Marvel movie with a strong pro-female message. It's silly. I haven't seen lurv this strong since Interstellar.

A. O. Scott.

The Great Gatsby

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I read the book ages ago, and that put me off seeing the movie until now. For Carey Mulligan, but ultimately Joel Edgerton who was the only one fully committed to taking this show over the cliff. When are we going to see him in a Marvel movie? DiCaprio leads (like in Titanic? — which I still haven't seen). His "old sport" just doesn't work. Tobey Maguire is the bemused Nick Carraway. I didn't recognise Elizabeth Debicki, which shows how engaged I was. The politics seem dated beyond belief: Daisy has no agency. The music is banal. There are Australians everywhere. It's just another over-egged Baz Luhrmann thing.

A. O. Scott says it's not as bad as other people were saying at the time, but it is that shallow. He's right that shame has gone missing between then and now. Dana Stevens. And many others.

Captain Marvel

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With Dave. 3:30pm 3D session at the Odeon 5, $31-ish for us both. Maybe three other people. Released last Thursday. We had coffee/lunch beforehand at Bills Beans.

Low expectations and heavy politicisation made this seem more like a Star Wars episode to me. Dave was adamant that he was there for Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn. (The latter reverts to his native strine when reunited with his refugee family, a fine rebuke that doubtlessly eluded most American commentators.) An anti-aged Samuel L. Jackson took on something of Larry Fishburne's Clean from Apocalypse Now. Brie Larson might have done her best. Annette Bening tried to make it into something. Arnie decided this was beneath him: the True Lies poster/stand thingie gets blasted and only Jamie Lee Curtis survives. Of course it should've been one for Pulp Fiction.

Reviews are dutiful. Dana Stevens: Finally, Women Have Their Own Mediocre Marvel Movie. Anthony Lane. The dogfight through canyons is what put me most in mind of Star Wars. A. O. Scott. The cat was a bit much.

Following

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A David Stratton marvellous movie (#36). Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. I'd seen it before but didn't remember much. A fine twisty little noir.

The Straight Story

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A David Stratton marvellous movie (#86); this one is by far the highest rated on IMDB (8/10) so far. In two sittings. The draw was David Lynch. A few decades before the epic use of a mobility scooter to retrieve a boat from storage, Richard Farnsworth decided he needed to see his long-lost brother (Harry Dean Stanton) one last time. Being of weak hip and eye but stubbornly self-reliant he figures that the best way to get from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin is on his ancient ride-on lawnmower. Suffice it to say he really doesn't make it to Grotto. The daughter he lived with is played by Sissy Spacek. There's a bit too much all-American hokum about family, and a slightly off-kilter reminiscence about World War II, but otherwise this is a picture-postcard perfect love letter to the small towns, the corn and wheat fields of the Midwest from Lynch. Freddie Francis's cinematography is excellent. There's a whiff of Terrence Malick about it, and also Twin Peaks — notably Badalamenti's music and Big Ed Everett McGill.

Ebert got right into it. Janet Maslin was astonished that Lynch could mesmerise with G-rated material.

The Killers (1946)

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A Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner jag from Seven Days in May: a black-and-white take on an Ernest Hemingway story made about 18 years previous. Briefly "Swede" Lancaster gets murdered in the opening scenes and the insurance investigation gets told entirely in flashback, somewhat like Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Lancaster is far too talkative to be a Swede. There's some boxing, some prison time, some noir; Edmond O'Brien leads in a Bogey kinda role and seems to to enjoy himself. Gardner is very young, and carries the femme fatale with insufficient conviction: she's often subdued (even a bit lifeless) and doesn't look very calculating. The plot is not very plausible and very tidily resolved.

Seven Days in May

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An Ava Gardner jag from The Night of the Iguana. She's very different here despite these movies coming out in the same year or thereabouts. Kirk Douglas is essentially the same as he was in Paths of Glory, speaking truth to power in black and white. Burt Lancaster plays the wayward general, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who thinks he can do a better job than President Fredric March, who in turn often sounds like GWB. It seems so old-fashioned for the man at the top to be combating conspiracies rather than promulgating them, though the big men of history is the same old timeless canard. The plot is earnest, much like Goodnight and Good Luck, and similarly virulently anti McCarthyist. Somehow this stuff always reminds me of Gil Scott Heron's B-Movie.

Impulse

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Yet another David Stratton Marvellous movie (#47). Over two sittings. Ex Ms Eastwood Sondra Locke directed; loads of details about her situation on her IMDB bio. She passed recently.

This is yet another exploration of the seamy side of life in Los Angeles. Lead actress Theresa Russell is gorgeous in classic go-getter 80s style. She's bait for the vice squad. Lead bloke, Jeff Fahey (looking much like William Petersen in To Live and Die in L.A. but a step closer to Michael Keaton), works for the D.A. and finds himself in need of her skills and so much more. Things go as you'd expect. The sexual politics is a bit suck-it-up-princess; there's not much empowerment but lots of harassment, some of which is welcome but most not. There's the suggestion that everything can be bought, but the window for closing the transaction might be narrow.

Its rating at IMDB is really low, but it's not that bad. Roger Ebert. Caryn James. I'm starting to think that Stratton would be happy watching daytime T.V.

A Running Jump

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A Mike Leigh-directed short from 2012. Doesn't seem to add up to much, though the acting is as good as always. The reviews at IMDB explain why: it was apparently made for the London Olympics and is no more than a series of gags.

Max Headroom (TV movie)

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I have vague memories of Max Headroom from the 1980s, somehow juxtaposed with the ABC's Rock Arena. I thought it was something like a five-minute cartoon (a Bugs Bunny for the MTV generation) but it turns out to be a TV series. This was the pilot, which apparently later got remade. It is frustratingly inconclusive. Also it's English, not American — the accents are all over the map.

The Guilty

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Danish Oscar bait. Scandi noir fused with the claustrophobic one-man one-set thing that worked so well for Tom Hardy in Locke. Yep, he's on the phone pretty much the whole time. There's a twist (but only one). The cinematography is washed out. It's a bust.

Jeannette Catsoulis got right into it.

The Night of the Iguana

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I've been meaning to watch this one for ages. John Huston directed and co-adapted Tennessee Williams's play. The cast is stellar. A reference in A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain prompted me to dig it up. Black and white in two sittings.

Sort-of-defrocked Reverend of the Gospel Richard Burton is chaperoning (really, being chaperoned by) a group of Baptist ladies from Texas led by Grayson Hall (cast precisely to type I'd expect) touring Mexico circa 1963. (Burton also played a priest in the contemporaneous Becket.) He brings them to a resort on a hill near the sea at Puerto Vallarta where good friend and recently-bereaved Ava Gardner holds court and has a blast. Later on quick-sketch artist and spinster Deborah Kerr arrives with her poetic grandfather and provides spiritual consolations to go along with the boozy ones. (I can just imagine her in The King and I.) Sue Lyon does over the willful Lolita role. None of the ladies can help themselves. Burton has never been funnier, perhaps because the Liz and Dick show was in town and going strong for the duration of filming.

Bosley Crowther at the time. I think he got it about right, but for me the stakes were lower.

The Hollars

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The things Sharlto Copley makes me watch. Mr Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, stars and directs. There's almost nothing to redeem this cliche-ridden family thing.

Okja

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It took me several goes to get through this. I found it far more tiresome than Bong Joon-ho's previous directorial efforts (e.g. Snowpiercer), which was surprising as the reviews were universally positive. The humour falls flat. Tilda Swinton starts strongly before degenerating to a cliche. Jake Gyllenhaal is especially feeble. Paul Dano is beatific, as always. Briefly: an American genetically-engineered superpig grows up in Korean mountains with a girl (an insufficiently-challenged An Seo Hyun) and her grandfather in perpetual summer. The rest goes as you'd expect. Notionally this is a comment on corporatised, mechanised industrial animal production but really it's a bust.

Dana Stevens. Yes, the pig is more like a rhino or a hippo. A. O. Scott.