peteg's blog - noise - movies

The Wrong Man

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A Henry Fonda jag. Black and white, Hitchcock: the wrong man gets accused of some robberies and everything goes to hell. Of course he's innocent (totally!) and eventually the plods catch up to the audience. I found it to be pretty much entirely a snoozefest. Vera Miles plays the wife who becomes unstuck (a dry run for Psycho?). Anthony Quayle is the lawyer who waves away concerns about his fee. His is perhaps the least convincing performance as he genuinely seems to care.

Twelve Angry Men

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A Henry Fonda jag from Once Upon a Time in the West. Amazingly still #5 in the IMDB top-250. As excellent as ever. The cast and acting is uniformly perfect. Lee J. Cobb works so hard to incarnate an alienated father.

Once Upon A Time In The West

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Rounding out the Sergio Leone Westerns. Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale. Jason Robards too. I can't say I got every detail of the plot. This one has perhaps the best Morricone score of the lot. The cinematography is top-notch. #36 in the IMDB top-250.

A Fistful of Dollars

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The first of the Dollars trilogy, and the last for me to rewatch. This one has the weakest plot, though all the ingredients are there. Strangely rated above A Fistful of Dynamite at IMDB.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

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A Gian Maria Volontè jag from For A Few Dollars More. I think the intent was to provoke, with many riffs on classic Italian tropes (e.g. libertines, "America is here!" apropos a two-room mainframe, fascism/state supremacy, having it all ways), some responding to the politics of the day. In that sense it's not very self-contained. I enjoyed it for the most part, modulo some histrionics. Ennio Morricone wrote the famous theme music.

Platoon

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An Oliver Stone, Willem Dafoe jag. A young Charlie Sheen. Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp. Tom Berenger. nth time around for large n; it doesn't really stick with me. Resolutely #187 in the IMDB top-250.

Affliction

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James Coburn got his Oscar for portraying the alcoholic, domineering and sometimes violent patriach to Nick Nolte's somewhat unglued small-town everyman. Sissy Spacek seems hopeless, and not for want of trying. Patsy Jim True-Frost was Buzz in The Hudsucker Proxy. Willem Dafoe plays the buttoned-down Boston University prof brother, somewhat against type. Something like a diffuse Fargo, transplated to New Hampshire. It doesn't quite cohere.

A Fistful of Dynamite (or Duck You Sucker)

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Second time around, over two nights. A Rod Steiger jag from Doctor Zhivago, and Leone from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Quite fun for what it is: revolutionary exile from Ireland James Coburn gets held up by Steiger and family in revolutionary Mexico. The expected ensues, with some funny twists.

For a Few Dollars More

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Another Leone, sharing Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I struggled to understand Gian Maria Volontè at times, and probably missed some of the filigree. More transparently criminal.

28 Days Later

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Drecky. Something of a jag from Ex Machina, but it seems scriptwriter Alex Garland has only one plot in him. Tiresomely predictable — what, we need a virus to unleash the rage? — and so much worse than you might expect from Danny Boyle, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and so forth. Christopher Eccleston could have been awesome in his pseudo-Cyberman role, if only they'd let him. Cillian Murphy morphs from bike courier to Spiderman without the customary scientific accident. It's like Shaun of the Dead without the comedy. I'll be giving 28 Weeks Later a miss despite the cast.

American History X

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Second time around, I think. The obvious (anachronistic) referent is This is England; but that focuses more on community and less on the individual, reflecting the Atlantic divide. I guess Romper Stomper demonstrated solipsistic solidarity across the Pacific. An Ed Furlong jag from Terminator 2, though he is far more deer-in-headlights passive here, effectively so. Ed Norton is brave, on his way to Fight Club and more ruefully 25th Hour. Both Guy Torry (did Lamont have so much and power and how?) and Stacy Keach own their scenes. It is so strange to see Elliott Gould play a buttoned-down school teacher. The cinematography is fantastic. I wonder what else director Tony Kaye has done; oh right, advertisements and music videos. The main weakness is the ending, which leaves too many threads unresolved.

This movie's time has come again, I guess. The white supremacist rhetoric is extreme, and quickly shifts from arguable to obscene. I didn't find the accompanying shifts in attitude plausible: people are not so infinitely malleable. The prescription for more self-esteem, self improvement, ideas whose time have gone, was soon enough mocked by Norton himself in Fight Club.

Janet Maslin, back in the day. Also David Edelstein.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

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More Arnie. I remain fascinated by just how perfectly constructed this movie is (for what it is): James Cameron somehow develops character, plot, and the rest simultaneously, while serving up spectacle. Still #42 in the IMDB top-250, and will be for a while yet.

Conan the Barbarian

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First time around. What a strange movie. Arnie is so young here, and the swords and sorcery thing doesn't sit quite right with him; he's much more at home with modern (and postmodern) weaponry. I don't remember seeing James Earl Jones act before. The trivia at IMDB about the making of this movie is more interesting than the movie itself. Co-written by Oliver Stone.

The Terminator

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Timeless, and still #228 in the IMDB top-250. I wonder where Arnie is at these days... apparently they're rebooting this franchise next year.

To Live and Die in L.A.

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A 1980s classic with some pretty dodgy editing. The always-reliable Willem Dafoe nails his role as a creepy failed-artist-turned-counterfeiter. William Petersen (the cop) has a face familiar from other movies the era, such as Manhunter. John Turturro plays it straight; maybe he saves his kookie for the Coen brothers. One lady is a compromised informant, the other the femme fatale. Things spiral out of control, predictably but entertainingly. Apparently second time around, but I don't remember a thing.

Incredibles 2

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Opening night at The Ritz, 8:30pm, $10, cinema 4. Packed with people who were born around about the time the first one got released; the MLC "life unchanging" advertisement offered them nothing (yet) and they talked the whole time. I had a quick dinner at Tum's Thai beforehand after staying a bit too late at work.

Bao was the opening short. The crowd laughed all the way through, including at the parts that seem intended to be poignant. Oops. The feature continued the 1960s retro nostalgic aesthetic, when people were just plain awesome(ly good or evil) and America was incontestably great. This was helped along by generous thievery from Bond. I enjoyed it for what it is, which is something less than the first one. The best bits featured baby Jack-Jack and involved no speaking and little politics.

Manohla Dargis. Sam Adams.

The Hudsucker Proxy

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A sometimes-fun piece of Coen brothers fluff. Paul Newman in fine growling form; Jennifer Jason Leigh almost gets there with her His Girl Friday schtick, accent sometimes wobbling; and Tim Robbins has it the toughest as a bumpkin. Second time around.

Mystic River

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An Eastwood jag from Unforgiven. Second time around.

Unforgiven

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Second time around. Vincent Canby reminded me that Eastwood has made a truckload of movies that I've never seen.

25th Hour

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A Spike Lee classic, rated lower than I would have expected on IMDB. Third or fourth time around. A Brian Cox, Anna Paquin jag from X-Men.