peteg's blog - noise - movies

Their Finest

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6:30pm Event Cinemas, George St, a freebie from some mailing list or other. Another Richard E. Grant supporting role in barely a month? I have to wonder at that. Gemma Arterton in the lead, Bill Nighy trying to be funny in an arch and recognizably stereotypical way. Yet another World War II movie, this time from the angle of a woman working on a propaganda film. Romance, patriotism, London during the blitz. You know, you've seen most of it before, probably in another BBC production.

Miss Sloane

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This is a dog of a movie. I had mixed expectations from the reviews on IMDB, and given the central issue is the regulation of guns in the U.S., but it turns out that whatever views one holds on that issue there is only one valid conclusion to be reached for this. The arguments are facile, everything is overexplained, Jessica Chastain has no subtlety and her character is absolutely horrible. It's a long way from A Most Violent Year. How could she possibly be the first person to think about organising women to come out against guns? I wonder if this isn't some kind of anti Erin Brockovich (I've never seen it). Mark Strong is the boss in Kick Ass.

Tresspass Against Us

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A recent Fassbender vehicle. Brendan Gleeson plays his father. The family are caravan-dwelling smash-and-grab thieves who appear to have developed their own argot. Sean Harris was awesome in Macbeth, but here I dunno. There's not much to it, and what is there is tediously predictable. Much of it is filmed like a hyped-up episode of The Bill. None of the characters is particularly sympathetic, and their world view is at best archaic and will not be mourned in its passing.

Logan

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Palace Cinemas, Norton St, 9pm session, $16.00 + 24 cent credit card surcharge. Three rows from the front, decent sized screen, comfortable. Rated MA-15+. I rode the still-nameless CB400 over in the dry, and back in some light rain. Parking is plentiful for bikes at that time of the night; I got a spot near the boom gate at the Norton Plaza, undercover, and there were others closer. I walked past a pristine Ural on the way back from the cinema.

I had to see it, of course, but let's not get too carried away here. I was a bit disappointed that Gandalf didn't reprise his role; it may have made for a nice cameo. The literal cloning of mutants shows the limits of this imagined world, as the plot does, every time, and passes up the obvious innovation of a god of plastic (hat tip to Douglas Adams). The violence is generally gratuitous, quite graphic. Jackman really does need that intravenous dose of viagra to bring out the wolverine. It was good to see Patrick Stewart let off some profanity, but too often he doesn't get past "Logan" (repeat a few times). His Professor X character is always troubling as it is too powerful, and must always be hobbled like a camel, lest it get away. There is some humour, more forced humour. Do all bad guys sport Southern accents now? Richard E. Grant, too weird. Stephen Merchant (Caliban) voiced Wheatley in Portal 2, wow. I had expected more Mad Max cinematography from the short.

As Dave put it, Jackman is once again seeking redemption. This particular portait of suffering is too one-dimensional to get worked up about. To my mind his long-term tenure in this role invites comparison with Arnie's as the Terminator, and it felt like Arnie had done it all before, right down to the grandpa Terminator, time travel, apprentice, empathy, acting with kids, the enemy with the half-blown-off metal head, ... — and we'll see if Jackman comes back from retirement.

In brief, I would have preferred another outing from the First Class crew.

Manohla Dargis. Paul Byrnes. Peter Bradshaw says Jackman "goes into Basil Fawlty mode" on a pickup truck, which is more amusing than the scene itself. Anthony Lane. The IMDB rating slipped from 9 on release to 8.9 the day after, 8.8 the day after, but still parked at #57 in the IMDB top-250.

Hell or High Water

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This got Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He didn't win. It's clear why the role appealed to him, though it isn't as rich as his one in Crazy Heart, largely because the whole thing is satisfied to cruise on its clever bank payback mechanism. Chris Pine and Ben Foster have the most fun as the brothers working the scam. The soundtrack is due to Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, in country-and-western mode, not quite apocalyptic.

Margaret

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More Kenneth Lonergan completism. Music by Nico Muhly of Bedroom Community fame. I didn't find any of the characters likeable or easy to sympathize with. Mark Ruffalo's bus driver is clearly a cardboard cutout, and Anna Paquin as a teen in the lead is articulate, histrionic, absolutist and irritating. I found her particularly tedious. Many other characters are purified points of view, so unsubtle that it's not so much about what the movie is trying to say but why it is bothering to try to say it. The plot stems from the death of an unknown lady early in the movie. Lonergan himself is the father in distant LA, somehow successful professionally with a disastrous personal life. The classroom scenes exhibit a painfully circular lack of insight.

A. O. Scott.

It seems that just today the IMDB boards have been shuttered.

T2 Trainspotting

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With Dave, 6:45pm session at Hoyts Broadway, $52.40 for the pair of us for the "extreme screen" preview. It wasn't entirely packed; we were five rows back with no one in front of us.

This sequel was better than I had any reasonable hope of it being. The continuity with the original navigates a narrow path between nostalgia and exploitation; much of it is a funeral for youthful selves, or in Sickboy's case, arrested development. I really liked Jonny Lee Miller both here and in the original, but it is Ewen Bremner's Spud who owns this episode. Robert Carlyle has to work harder at the Begbie snarl and seems too flabby to have spent twenty years in gaol; the voice is there but the psycho angularity is gone. Ewan McGregor seemed at ease, and I had hopes that Kelly Macdonald would let Diane fully rip once more. Newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova is not up to the standard of the others. There's a slightly clunky Gone Girl disconnection in the middle that is unsurprising and necessary for the plot. The music was interesting, featuring remixes of the old standards and some new stuff; Dad's Best Friend by the Rubberbandits is a standout.

More broadly this is an Edinburgh retrospective, showing the destruction of the buildings that once made Leith an industrial hub; now not even the geography remembers. Spud's residency in one of the few remaining projects is especially poignant. The plot is not much chop, and Irvine Welsh still cannot act, but that's not what anyone was there for.

The big thunder storm of the afternoon demonstrated that the roof over the kitchen of our current abode is not sound.

You Can Count on Me

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Kenneth Lonergan completism. Laura Linney so completely inhabits her character that I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it. She looked so happy clowning around with Matthew Broderick, and who wouldn't be soaked to meet Ferris in the flesh? Mark Ruffalo is also convincing in his role as a modern, young Brando. Upstate New York in summer, Rory Culkin playing the child of one sibling who is liberated by the other, both just holding it together in smalltown USA. I wished there'd been more to the ending, but it's life so things just continue, I guess.

Stephen Holden.

Gold

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Matthew McConaughey is a gold prospector. There seem to be a lot of movies being made about shysters, for instance American Hustle and I think Christian Bale did a better job there, with the elaborate comb-over. This one is about a whatever-it-takes gold strike in Indonesia in the late 1980s. Everything is OK but doesn't add up to anything.

Inception

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Still parked at #14 in the IMDB top-250. Second time around. Made even less sense.

Manchester by the Sea

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Casey Affleck is clearly the man for this job, and Michelle Williams makes the most of her limited screen time. It's good, and I have to wonder why Ben Affleck didn't try for something like this instead of continuing to trawl Lehane's oeuvre. Kyle Chandler in some ways anchors the thing. The structure is a bit Gone Girl, with some untelegraphed flashbacks that take some getting used to. There's something of Erskineville Kings here too. I wondered how the thing would resolve, and somehow the bleakness is OK. I'll be digging into the rest of Kenneth Lonergan's output presently.

Francine Prose wants to talk about life since Trump. Her conclusion is bleaker than the movie's. A. O. Scott is right, it's very funny, and quite geographically (Massachusetts) and socially (Catholic, white, male) specific. Anthony Lane. Dana Stevens is a bit off: Affleck's character is busted beyond repair. He's given up on himself, but honours his familial obligations.

Moonlight

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I scored a freebie to this from the State Library, and cashed it at the Verona 8.45pm screening after having dinner at Time for Thai in Kensington. Parking is a bit painful there due to the lightrail construction. The bike is going well, though I need to get used to riding at higher revs. I understand the appeal of sports machines now. The theatre was about a quarter full. I was a bit surprised to see Joel Edgerton in the short for Loving looking like a roughed-up Val Kilmer. Unfortunately it felt like a movie that's entirely contained in its trailer.

Moonlight was produced by Brad Pitt, which perhaps means that he felt this to be a story that needed to be told, or Barry Jenkins is an exceptionally promising director. Mahershala Ali was brilliant in the role of Juan, and the three-way between him, his girl Teresa (an equally solid Janelle MonĂ¡e, though she had less to work with) and Little (Alex R. Hibbert, yes, excellent) was magic. Naomie Harris has the hard job of being an erratic, sometimes drug-addled mother. Unfortunately the succeeding acts don't measure up to the first, and narrative possibility evaporates as the time-honoured cliches of drugs, poverty and blackness are given a slight gloss by some decent and subtle acting. The acorn didn't fall so far from the tree (I hoped he'd morph into a nuclear physicist), thereby knackering the more personal parts of this tale of self-discovery. The whole thing is wonderfully slow, and some scenes so powerfully ordinary, which seems so daring in these strange times. I guess I wish there'd been more humour.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

Live by Night

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Ben Affleck's latest: screen-written, directed, and starring in. It's a bit too much. This is the film version of the predecessor of the Lehane novel I read a while back, and if I was paying attention to either I may have figured that out at the time. Unfortunately Affleck is at his most wooden, and the whole thing is overstuffed with cliche; it's just a pastiche of all the 1920s gangster flicks that have come before. The cast is great, and it's clearly the material that is wanting. When will Zoe Saldana get a decent role?

Manohla Dargis.

Lawrence of Arabia

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I wish I'd seen this in 70mm at the cinema.

National Theatre Live: No Man's Land

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I saw an an ad for this at the Chauvel: the live broadcast was on December 15, 2016 and they'll replay it sometime soon. The draw is Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on the stage doing Pinter's No Man's Land. I enjoyed his work while I was in Chicago; this production is more arch and less fun. Perhaps the Brits venerate him too much. The set is pretty boring.

Taxi Driver

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I think I saw this venerable Scorcese effort at one of the old midnight screenings on George St in the 1990s. The electioneering — Goodwin: A return to greatness — is so very 2016, as are the vigilantism and bald assertions of pseudo-fact, the unhinged behaviour of the strong. It's been picked over for decades now. The cinematography comes off as a bit try-hard, something that larger budgets presumably sorted out. I hadn't realised how much of this was raided by Stone for Natural Born Killers.

Exodus

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The reasons for making this movie could hardly be less interesting than the movie itself. I don't remember why I picked this one out: Otto Preminger is not really on his game here, and Paul Newman is excruciatingly wooden. Lurv in a time of nation building is quite painful to watch; apparently there are no valid arguments against violence in the service of a future state, here Israel. Everyone becomes a Zionist inside five minutes, whatever their priors, and the ethics is down at the level of Star Wars-esque who-shot-first. The dialogue is generally horrible. There is some OK cinematography but nothing for the ages. The score was very familiar: I think I've heard Mantovani's version of it before. It is very long and tendentious.

Allied

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At the Verona, 8:50pm session, membership freebie, $4.50 for a flat white. I walked there from Gordons Bay via Centennial Park and Oxford St with some hope that there was more to it than was in the short. There wasn't. The problem with using an adblocker all the time is that it makes me more susceptible to advertising when I do encounter it. There were loads of people going to something else, probably La La Land. In my absence the Verona has changed to allocated seating.

The entire thing is horribly unimaginative, featuring Brad Pitt at his most wooden, leaving it to Marion Cotillard to supply all the energy. The plot is entirely risible; in these post-Gone Girl days you can't get away with something as dumbly linear as this. In some ways it's a humourless retread of Inglourious Basterds; in others a humourless pretread of The Tree of Life. Pitt sure has been in a lot of war movies recently, and particularly WWII ones. The nods to Casablanca signal desperation, co-option.

A. O. Scott saw another movie.

Boom Bust Boom

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This is a well-produced vacuity about the failure of current-day economics to be stable, and of economists to study instability. It is larded with tautology and leans on some big names who probably didn't know they'd be so bowdlerized; I guess Terry Jones's Monty Python pedigree opens doors to people who should know better. Good for Hyman Minsky that he predicted what happened in 2008; poor form of the producers to include Steve Keen and not reflect on his failure as prognosticator. Hint: it's all in the timing boys.

Ken Kaworowski was impressed.

All the Way

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A HBO telemovie about LBJ's first election, and the civil rights fight/mess/campaign/... of 1964. It's a touch hagiographic, as one would expect given the generally poor(er) quality of presidents since. I hadn't realized how young he was at the time. Bryan Cranston is mostly solid in the lead, as is Melissa Leo as his wife. The lines are a bit too pat and didactic, posturing, for this to really work as it may have on the stage. Anthony Mackie does not succeed as Martin Luther King Jr. Bo Foxworth is a serviceable Robert S. McNamara, albeit more robotic than the original ever was, I'd guess. Ray Wise, from Twin Peaks, plays Senator Everett Dirksen.