peteg's blog - noise - movies


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Paul Dano's first effort as director. Carey Mulligan is a young mum who gets moved to Montana with her son Ed Oxenbould by her never-do-well husband Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake promptly loses his job on the golf course and decides fighting more literal fires is what he needs to do as a man. Car dealing Bill Camp is somehow a temptation to the young ladies. The histrionic scenes are not good. Ultimately no more than a family drama featuring three odd socks. It seems such a shame to venture into David Lynch territory and come away with only this.

Glenn Kenny got right into it somehow.

The Old Man & the Gun

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Spacek and Redford meet cute: her truck has broken down on a motorway, and he's in need of a change of getaway vehicle. Their diner scene is not a patch on the one in Thief. Casey Affleck and fellow mumbler Tom Waits (OK, growler and mutterer), Elisabeth Moss abet and escape without too much reputational damage. This is a pile of hokey ageing philosophizing about one-time boomer dreams: the inability to stop yourself from the pure indulgence of robbing yet another bank, even when you're shacked up with a Spacek who has a vintage Merc, three horses and a massive spread. I got thinking that Redford could probably play Trump in the inevitable Oliver Stone biopic: they have a similar all-American smug smile, whatever their differences in politics and demeanor.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens reminds me that director David Lowery made A Ghost Story.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

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I thought I'd seen the original but perhaps I haven't. Disney and loads of branding makes for a tedious and unimaginative experience. Nothing there for me. I don't know what I was expecting.

Bilge Ebiri and Sam Adams seem to think that we need movies like this to understand the current internet.

Green Book

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A weakly-scripted road buddy movie barely held together by Viggo Mortensen who got to see writer/director Peter Farrelly squander Mahershala Ali up close. Somehow highly rated on IMDB. Almost entirely about sticking the moral superiority of the American North to the South circa 1962. Viggo doesn't evolve so very much: his initial casual racism is not so deep or convincing that he can't just roll with what the world sends his way. An empty shell of a thing.

A. O. Scott. Inkoo Kang. Odienator. Richard Brody.

Smiley's People

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The BBC series, second time around. Over a couple of sittings. Also excellent.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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The BBC series, second time around. Over (only) a couple of sittings. Excellent.

The Favourite

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Had lunch in the Sydney CBD after trying to dig up the possibly-mythical Lego™ Chinese New Year sets. The goal was to burn my almost-expired Palace Cinemas membership freebie. I intended to go to the Verona for the 3:30pm session but found I could make it to the dear old Chauvel in time for their 2:50pm screening in Cinema 1 with perhaps 10 other people. It still hasn't been renovated.

Well, this is the sisterhood doing it to themselves a few centuries ago, in costume. It's a bit Lady Macbeth without Macbeth: to a man, the men are mostly inert and/or laddish, and their only memorable scenes involve a duck race and a naked porky squire being pelted with fruit by other parliamentarians or courtiers. (I was too sleepy to distinguish.) The main track has Olivia Colman laying it on as a sickly and indulged Queen Anne who is bossed by Rachel Weisz until fallen scrumpet Emma Stone turns up to reclaim her ladyhood, which seems to amount to the freedom to be a bitchy slut. Anne keeps seventeen rabbits: one per child who didn't make it. Weisz teaches Stone to murder some birds with long rifles. The cinematography sometimes employs an odd weird-out lens (such as a fisheye). Loads of four-letter words are thrown about, making it difficult to recommend to the BBC crowd. There is much riffing on the theme of ladywork. The story has some basis in history for those keeping score. Not much there for me on the whole.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

Gran Torino

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Second time around. Clint Eastwood plays a curmudgeonly Polish geriatric in Michigan whose neighbourhood is being transformed by Hmong immigration. Amazingly #165 in the IMDB top-250. Definitely has its moments, though the climax must be the most overblown thing he's done. Eastwood has a new one with similar themes out soon (The Mule).

Dana Stevens is not a fan of Eastwood as a director. Manohla Dargis

The Believer

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On the recommendation of Ryan Gosling fan Leon. Before BlacKkKlansman there were Dan Burros and Frank Collin and maybe still others yet to be made into movies. Out of this writer/director Henry Bean assembles a story of an intellectual self-hating New York Jew who is so extremely skeptical about the morals drawn from the classical stories (Abraham and Isaac in particular) that he becomes a violent neo Nazi. Some counterpoints are drawn: that we're all abstracted cosmopolitans now, that anti Semitism is obsolete for the purposes of fascism. Bean makes far more out of his challenging premises than approximate cognates American History X and Romper Stomper (etc). He (bravely) seems satisfied to let some ambiguities ride; for instance, the sacred never goes away for Gosling's character: it is easier for him to contemplate killing people than see the desecration of the synagogue.

Billy Zane and Theresa Russell constitute a creepy right-wing couple. Summer Phoenix is perplexing as a Judaism-curious young lady with the wrong priors. Gosling looks a lot like Joker Matthew Modine in Full Metal Jacket. Bean went on to write Basic Instinct 2.

Roger Ebert was uncomfortable. kylopod at IMDB. Julie Salamon was uncomfortable and wanted more closure.


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Suckered by its retro poster, I was planning to see this with the Palace Cinemas freebie that has been burning a hole in my pocket for ages. Orange is however so boring that Dave easily convinced me to go to the 12:30 screening at the Odeon 5. $17.50 each, Cinema 4; I told him to try to join the movie club, which I think comes out the same. All their sessions are at bad times. I'm guessing there were about 30 other people there.

This is writer/director Adam McKay's followup to The Big Short. Here he attempts to explain to us perhaps the most opaque politician of all time: Dick Cheney. As before he pulls an impressive cast (Christian Bale as Cheney, Amy Adams as Lynne, Naomi Watts as a news anchor, Alfred Molina, Steve Carell as Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell as W., Eddie Marsan as Wolfowitz, others) but fails to tell us anything that you couldn't find in the news at the time. I learnt that Cheney's daughter got elected to the House in 2016, and that he had a heart transplant recently. He's a family man until he isn't. Macbeth! Maccas for lunch after, and we found a coffee at a chocolate shop on Lords Place.

Dana Stevens. Fred Kaplan provides valuable perspective. A. O. Scott. Jonah Weiner. David Bromwich.

An Education

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It's 1961 in Twickenham. Apparently affluent charming playboy Peter Sarsgaard picks up final year schoolgirl Carey Mulligan, and her aspirational parents (unpersuasive Alfred Molina, girlish Cara Seymour) approve of her throwing away Oxford in favour of marriage. Predictable outcomes ensue. There's some useful friction with the older Ms Gone Girl Rosamund Pike, born to it. Olivia Williams, the concerned Miss English Teacher, needs a tango lesson. Emma Thompson plays the headmistress to type. Sally Hawkins is squandered as a suburban wife.

It's not so much Lolita as an expansion and coy dilution of the Diana subthread of Trainspotting; Mulligan even gets in a Renton-style spray about how shite it is to be English, so boring, such limited prospects for women, even with a degree. There's a daft scene at a dog track: of course after her dog comes in she gets proposed to in the parking lot. All the furniture of one of David Lynch's small-town efforts is there, minus the weird; Beth Rowley smokes as a nightclub singer. As for coming-of-age movies, you'd be better off watching something that involves real skill, like surfing. The saccharine tacked-on happy ending emphasises the lack of conviction in all that came before.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.


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More Michael Mann, and more boxing. Will Smith is mostly solid playing legend Muhammad Ali, with help from Jamie Foxx and Jon Voigt, the latter-day Matrixistas Jada Pinkett Smith and Nona Gaye, and others. All their good work is undone by poor editing and pacing. Putting some dates on the various events would have helped. It's overlong and doesn't do justice to its subject.

Roger Ebert. Elvis Mitchell.

Pixar Short Films Collection 1

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Early short films by Pixar. I'd seen a few before. Some are totally naff. Jack-Jack Attack and One Man Band were the picks for me.

The Keep

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A Michael Mann jag from Thief. Oh my. It's hard to discern the plot from the film itself; one could try to read the F. Paul Wilson source material but I fear that will also be unenlightening (it seems to be more Highlander-ish than this movie). Again Tangerine Dream on the soundtrack. Ian McKellen starts out wheelchair-bound in a dry run for Eric Lensherr... and Gandalf! The delivery is similar, the voice the same. He looks just very slightly younger until he looks like Peter O'Toole with wild hair. Gabriel Byrne is a plastic SS officer, taking one side of the argument with German regular Jürgen Prochnow (squandered here). The editing is dodgy, and I saw a very low quality version.

You can almost see what they were trying to do — an arthouse horror movie — and despite the low IMDB rating, there is at least one die-hard fan out there. Mann is so much more at home in American cities, making them look totally awesome. I don't think he went near anything like this ever again.

Inside Llewyn Davis

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Second time around. About as good as I remembered it.


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Second time around. Did Michael Mann make a better movie? I might find out if I get to The Keep. The debuts of William Petersen and Robert Prosky. Vincent Canby bemoans that this film "[is] unfortunately convinced that ordinary movies can be elevated to cinema if the characters talk fancy enough and if the camera consistently turns the most commonplace objects into beautiful abstractions of reality." What he didn't realise that the neon-lit Chicago was soon history; and anyway, isn't this precisely what Pixar has been doing all these years? He also chews out my favourite scenes where James Caan romances Tuesday Weld; yes, these days that would be all #metoo.

Roger Ebert. Daniel Engber on the works of Mann.

Beat the Devil

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More John Huston. A strange setup involving a lot of talking about acquiring uranium-rich land in Africa. Bogart is, as always, an improbable, pragmatic and entirely equal-opportunity babe magnet. Oscar-winner Jennifer Jones is one of those babes, constantly telling inventive lies. She's married to uptight/upright Edward Underdown, who Bogey's supposed wife Gina Lollobrigida conveniently wants to trade up to. He's unconvinced. The land was somehow going to be appropriated for cheap by four scoundrels led by Robert Morley. World War II Major Ivor Barnard spouts off about the superiority of the great fascists. It's a mess, and a bit fun. Written by Truman Capote.

Roger Ebert. Thirza Wakefield.

Killer's Kiss

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Scratching for something to watch. Early Kubrick, last seen quite a while ago. None of the actors were big or went on to be.

Fat City

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Mining John Huston's directorial efforts. Stacy Keach in his prime, and a young Jeff Bridges. Susan Tyrell plays a wanton barfly. Briefly, a professional boxer a year and a half unfit introduces a young man to the sport, and shows he still has it while the youngster doesn't yet. Bridges accepts all blows uncomplainingly. The trainer's heart is not entirely in his salesmanship. Small-town Stockton is filmed like Altman would have. The farming scenes set in the San Joaquin Valley were an American staple. Relax and enjoy.

Roger Ebert.

Kaili Blues

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Over several nights. Did not live up to its intriguing reviews. Some beautiful cinematography exhibits provincial, small-town China where nothing much happens. There are a few distended motorcycle/car scenes that do little to further anything. Soporific but possibly meditative for those in the mood.

J. Hoberman. Ken Jaworowski is right, the final scene is ace.