peteg's blog - noise - movies

Batman

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Tim Burton's effort from 1989. It's not exactly a classic and not a misfire either. Michael Keaton certainly has his moments. Jack Nicholson enjoys himself. Kim Basinger must have been better elsewhere.

Lady Bird

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Met up with Dave for some Fat Fish in Annandale; he'd been up to Port Mac for some tango and revving up for yet another move. I was super spaced out and thought I'd parked out the back of the Hyatt when in fact I'd left the yet-nameless CB400 near Erskine St, in the massive double row of bikes somewhat close to Wynyard. That cost me 20 minutes but gained me some exercise.

Afterwards we headed to Palace Cinemas Norton St to see if Dave's magical $8 ticket card still worked, which it did. Cinema 3, four rows from the front. Saoirse Ronan was quite fun, and overall it's a better than the average coming-of-age flick. I wish I hadn't seen the short though as the funniest bits are in that. It somewhat aims for Todd Solondz territory but veers away from serious discomfort. The ending is about as aimless as it must be.

Inglourious Basterds

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Third time around apparently, into the wee hours of Thursday morning after a trying Wednesday. Now #97 in the IMDB top-250. Tarantino tries hard to beat David Lynch at the filmclip thing by having Mélanie Laurent put on her makeup over David Bowie's Putting out fire with gasoline; yeah, we get it.

The Square

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Nominated for a foreign movie Oscar; winner of the Palme d'Or, but what a turkey. The fine art market, even that of Stockholm, so often self-satirises that there is not even a limit to take it to. Swedish director Ruben Östlund tries to modernize or at least hybridize the Dogme tradition with extremely long scenes that too often don't work; the feeling is less the telling awkwardness of a von Trier, a Moodysson or Ricky Gervais and more just blankless. There is the very occasional burst of Swedish comedic timing, but it's all been done before, and it's hard to see what Elizabeth Moss is doing here. The cinematography is sometimes beautiful. The poster is a still from a genuinely uncomfortable scene.

A. O. Scott.

Look Back in Anger (1959)

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A Richard Burton segue from 1984, and sometimes just as relentless. There's the odd quite amusing line but Burton's overbearing boorishness and the dodgy sexual politics (middle class English ladies are just hanging for some rough stuff) rob this piece of much power. It has the raw restless energy of the 1960s and all the stymied self-destructive anger of 2016, with the result a similar unsatisfying mess. O'Brien is not so far from here. Also something of a dry run for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and an attempt to beat the Americans at their own beatish, rebellious game.

Molly's Game

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I had hoped to go to one of the $5 sessions at the Palace Cinemas with Dave, but of course those sold out well in advance. Switching to Plan B, we had dinner at Allfine Chinese Cuisine House (35A Ross St in Forest Lodge) and headed over to their Norton St premises for the 9:10pm Cinema 2 session of Molly's Game. $8 each. Dave was on foot after his relocation to Ashfield. It was a day of occasionally mildly serious rain.

This is Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, and of course he wrote the screenplay for this adaptation as well. Jessica Chastain more-or-less reprises the blank hard driven woman leading role we saw her do in Miss Sloane. Costner plays her father with a blander hardness, successfully but uncreatively. I enjoyed Idris Elba's performance the most. The story suffers from Sorkin's need to deify his leading lady: he needed to go deeper, to complexify her, to wind back the mansplaining. Things go along OK but the climax is a let down.

Manohla Dargis. This isn't very close to His Girl Friday.

Happy Go Lucky

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A Mike Leigh effort from 2008. For Sally Hawkins who is as motor mouthed as Thewlis was in Naked. Second time around it feels a bit out of time, what with the GFC and Brexit and all. Eddie Marsan works hard to break that shiny happy surface, and I guess those events sadly reflect the dominance of his worldview. The stakes never seem too high though, excepting Marsan's intemperance and a tramp who challenges Poppy's ability to empathise. Alexis Zegerman plays her confidante perfectly.

Phantom Thread

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The Ritz, 6:30pm, advanced screening: booked Jan 17, $11 member price + $1.50 online fee = $12.50. It got moved from theatre 2 to 5, which was not packed; I guess it was not as popular as they expected.

This is P. T. Anderson's latest feature. Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent in their previous joint venture There will be Blood a decade ago, and is similarly quite fine here, in what he claims to be his final outing as an actor. His character is posessed of a droll wit paired with rumblings of genius, about which I cannot opine as I have no taste in dresses (which were generally banal, I felt). The audience indulged his every utterance. Vicky Krieps as Alma gamely goes up against the old master, and dominates all her other scenes. Her mushroom work reminded me of Florence Pugh's in Lady Macbeth, albeit with doubleplus sensuality. Lesley Manville is all unbreachable steely reserve.

The pacing of this 1950s character study is slow. The music is provided by Jonny Greenwood, the social classes by England. It is hardly a universal story, and at times Anderson may have been better to completely abandon plot, as he so wilfully does in the powerfully intimate closing scenes. I was often waiting for something to happen, just like Alma: fully engaged.

Dana Stevens. A. O. Scott. Geoffrey O’Brien.

Darkest Hour

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At The Ritz, 8:30pm, a membership freebie. (Their loyalty program seems ridiculously generous.) For Gary Oldman, who does inhabit Churchill almost completely, though he can never hide those eyes or trademark raised-eyebrow penetrating expression. This is the story of the early days of England's engagement in WWII, so we get a fine Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI making his peace with a belligerent Oldman, who is given Kristin Scott Thomas for a wife and Lily James as something more than a typist but not quite a PA. As one would expect we get a lot of speeches and not too much action; the converse of Dunkirk perhaps. Director Joe Wright seems to be a costume drama sorta guy, and I guess the century of such is now the twentieth. I was engaged by the whole thing, though at points the story is entirely railroaded.

A. O. Scott is dead right that the Underground scene is tosh. Sam Adams.

Pulp Fiction

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Somehow #7 in the IMDB top-250, up three spots since I last saw it five years ago. This time around Travolta struck me as creaky.

Sleuth

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Second time around. Laurence Olivier at his fruitiest, Michael Caine: if only he could get that accent under control!

The Shape of Water

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At The Ritz, 8:45pm, $17 for an advanced screening. Cinema 2 was both larger and busier than I expected.

This is the latest fairy tale for adults from Guillermo del Toro. The draw was Sally Hawkins (last seen in Maudie), whose Elisa here is mute but not deaf, and Michael Shannon as a G-man; unfortunately he seems to have become typecast since The Iceman. I live in hope of him finding more diverse roles. Richard Jenkins as Elisa's mate gets the best lines, while Octavia Spencer as her other mate does her best to be an early champion of women's lib. Doug Jones does the creature perfectly.

I enjoyed it for the most part as a visual feast; there are many fine touches in the small and I wish I'd seen it on a larger screen. The plot is relentlessly formulaic (perhaps precisely that of Beauty and the Beast?). del Toro mixes in a bit of everything: some classic Hollywood on the TV, some tap dancing, a dance/musical scene, the Cold War at one of its peaks, crank science. The aesthetic is pure 1962 Aperture Science Labs (from Portal). At one point the seafood takes its revenge on a cat. Some of it is quite funny.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens is right: the opening shot is unmatched by the rest of the movie.

The Wild Geese

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A Richard Burton jag from 1984. He smiles in this one, when he meets his mate played by Richard Harris. The plot is tediously linear for a long time: in London the mission is specified, the team assembled, the terms agreed, they ship out to Africa, the action starts. It's classic privatised colonialism, and similarly does not really cohere or totally disintegrate. Roger Moore attempts playboy cool, but as with Burton he's not that convincing once the bullets start flying. Barry Foster is a bit of an everyactor. An English attempt to preempt Apocalypse Now perhaps, with a side of commentary about the apartheid situation in the South Africa of the day (1978).

Looper

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Second time around. Rian Johnson knows how to get the best from Joseph Gordon-Levitt; conversely he doesn't ask Bruce Willis to do anything he hasn't done before, and Emily Blunt is a bit too much of a randy everymother. I enjoyed it but can't say it stands up to well to an active brain. Pierce Gagnon (the boy) was later Sonny Jim in the Twin Peaks reboot.

Iron Man 3

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Second time around. Overegged. A pastiche of too many other movies. Ben Kingsley has a ton of fun as Trevor. Guy Pearce is good, but he's good in just about anything.

1984

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Last seen an age ago. The version I had used the original title: Nineteen Eighty-Four. Richard Burton is clearly in ill-health here, just like George Orwell was when he wrote it. I enjoyed John Hurt's performance. I have to wonder how much sense it makes to someone unfamiliar with the book; some of the dream sequences were difficult to parse, both temporally and thematically. The aesthetic falls far short of contemporaneous dystopian epics, such as Bladerunner, by evoking Doctor Who and Blake's 7 with a side of creepy exploitation. The story, strong as ever, struggles and chafes.

Rope

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Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart. Dropped out of the IMDB top-250 since I last saw it in 2010. I vaguely thought it was twistier than it is. The camerawork is still amazing.

Iron Man 2

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Yeah, more cheap thrills. Don Cheadle is not so hot. Scarlett Johansson is not so hot. Mickey Rourke owns the scenes he's in, but that was it for his revival. I enjoyed Sam Rockwell far more this time around. As in the first one, Jon Favreau is quite funny. The final scenes are pretty dire.

Iron Man

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Yeah. It's got all the elements of a decent movie but doesn't fit them together so well. Jeff Bridges struggles to inflate his evil dude character; several decades of doing things carefully is discarded like a bride's nightie. Perhaps this is the limitation of the Iron Man comic-book character, or the entire genre.

Gettin' Square

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Second time around. Crime comedy in South East Queensland. The essence of Rake in some sense, and a pro forma Underbelly fiction in another. David Wenham is quite funny, but I don't know what Timothy Spall was thinking. The ending is weak.