peteg's blog - noise - movies

Mother

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Palace Cinemas Norton St, $16 + $4.50 for a flat white, 9pm, Theatre 7 (first time upstairs), C5 (good spot, it's small). I only went because I was at something of a loose end after having dinner at the Indian in Coogee.

This is Aronofsky's latest. (The Wrestler I enjoyed, the rest not so much.) He's currently dating Jennifer Lawrence so she's front and centre in almost all frames. Javier Bardem does what he can with a cardboard character. Ed Harris is somehow scrawny and entirely competent as an emphysemic doctor. Michelle Pfeiffer enjoys herself immensely, especially when draping herself on Bardem (and makes this something of a jag from Scarface). There were about five people in the theatre and I wonder if anyone had any idea what was going on.

Anthony Lane: I also enjoyed Pfeiffer's efforts the most. A. O. Scott. I didn't get the humour. Francine Prose.

Old Boy (Spike Lee, 2013)

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Over several nights. A strong cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley. A completely unnecessary remake of the Park Chan-Wook original.

Kedi

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A recommendation from Mum and Glenn Kenny. Over several nights. The cats of Istanbul. Beautiful cinematography, some genuine empathy and amusing stories.

Scarface

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With Dave, $15 each for an EPIC 2K DIGITAL REMASTER screening at The Ritz, 8:30pm. A De Palma / Pacino / Oliver Stone masterwork. This is not a true classic of its genre, as the poster contends; it is the genre. Dinner at Pinocchio's beforehand.

Maudie

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8:30pm session at the dear old Verona, $16.00, theatre 4, which I don't think I've been in before. The lass allocated me D6 but the room is small and narrow enough that you could comfortably sit in the front row (C6 it was for me, and the other person in the cinema sat on the end of the same row). The ride over was quick but middling; asinine traffic, a bit cold and spitting rain. The shorts were uniformly crap.

This is a romanticised portrait of a Canadian lady who became famous for her paintings, living in a tough life in the margins of nowheresville Nova Scotia. It's a bit hard to place it in time; the middle segment is centred around 1955, with Nixon in the Senate and not yet the Whitehouse. There's not much plot but some character development; the central motif is the turning of the seasons. The producers were reaching for Mr Turner, and their main failing is that while the visual composition is great and often pretty, the photography lacks vibrancy. I was mostly there for Sally Hawkins, who previously put in some excellent work with Mike Leigh in Happy Go Lucky. Ethan Hawke was also fine, looking more like Nick Nolte by the year.

Manohla Dargis.

The Farthest

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A PBS documentary gestured at by Ars. It's about the Voyager probes, which launched about a month after I was born. I remember some of the media hoopla of the 1980s as it passed the gas giants and the excitement about cosmology of those days. This has some great footage but also too much synthetic CGI and eyes in negative space. More about the engineering please, the science, and far less gold disc; for a story about machines it's too human-centric.

Andy Webster.

City of Tiny Lights

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For Riz Ahmed, who it seems is essential to any terrorism-related flick out of England. The flashback revelatory structure is too much like Wind River's; I guess this is how you tell a story in 2017. The parallel historical story of their youthful selves is not very plausible or innovative, and the ending is a bit too tidy. It adds up to something less than an extended episode of The Bill. The Wong Kar Wai cinematography does not help.

Wind River

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A freebie from NIDA, with Dave, 9:10pm, Palace Cinemas Norton Street theatre 1, maybe ten people total. We had a flat white each there.

Overall it's good. The short implied there'd be more stereotyped conflict between Jeremy Renner's gone-native local hunting bloke and Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent. (Writer/directory Taylor Sheridan trotted out Emily Blunt in a similar FBI ingenue role in Sicario.) It's a simple moral fable really: Native Americans suffer much predation and maybe all the justice on offer is (righteously Dirty Harry) vigilantism. Leaving aside my doubts about the logic of all that, things fit together well, especially the scenes shot outside. The major failing is Renner's (two?) explanatory monologues, which don't sit so well with his being otherwise a man of few words.

Glenn Kenny.

A Ghost Story

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$16.00, at the dear old Verona, theatre 1, 6.45pm; at a bit of a loose end, I ended up plumping for this over Dunkirk, largely because of Casey Affleck, and somewhat Rooney Mara. Loads of people there at that time; some even came to see this! I'd resisted reading any reviews; the theatre was about a quarter full and at least four people quit it in the first half hour, so I expect that most of us didn't know what we were getting.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. I can't add much.

Thelma & Louise

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Some kind of Ridley Scott completism; Brad Pitt so young, Susan Sarandon already past her prime, Geena Davis playing a hedonistic airhead ten years younger than she was, Harvey Keitel struggling with an accent. It's a one-way roadtrip.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Edgar Wright completism. Meh.

Baby Driver

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9pm session, Palace Cinemas Norton St, with Dave, $32 + $2.60 booking fee for the two of us, booked around 1pm; the cinema was packed, so hats off to the marketing agents on this opening weekend. Before we worked a bit deeper into the dumpling menu at Allfine Chinese Cuisine House (35A Ross St in Forest Lodge), which was awesome, and a flat white each at the cinema.

This is a mashup of heist and car movies with a touch of Twin Peaks and a side of Tarantino. The references are for the most part obvious. Edgar Wright didn't name-check Pulp's Disco 2000 or Julie Brown's eternal Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun, so I can tell he didn't listen to JJJ in the 1990s. Lily James looks a lot like a young Mädchen Amick, or wants to be; there is not much pie in that diner. Spacey is pure cliched Spacey, a self-parody by the end. It's not great. The music didn't do it for me. The plot was was meh. It's not very funny, and nothing particularly memorable happens. I liked the use of sign language juxtaposed with all the noise, but that ultimately went nowhere.

Manohla Dargis got into it.

Sameblod (Sami Blood)

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A freebie from the UNSW Creative Practice Lab that I cashed at the dear old Verona on the 6:30pm screening of this, on Cath's suggestion after winnowing the current Scandi movie festival down to three possibilities.

The story is the reminiscence of the girlhood of an aged, deracinated Sámi (Lapp?) lady who wanted more from life than herding reindeer. There are some uncomfortable scenes portraying the racial determinism of the 1930s, and social exclusion and exploitation. In many ways it is formulaic and plays to type (Moodysson extracted more shock from his more familiar territory) but is somewhat rescued by some good cinematography and the strength of Lene Cecilia Sparrok's performance in the lead. I wondered who fathered her son and what she did between the then and now scenes.

The Promise

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I don't really know what to make of this. The topic — the Armenian genocide — is a worthy and touchy one and has already received at least one decent cinematic treatment (Ararat). This one is designed to pull on American heart strings and its poor IMDB rating suggests it won't get much of a chance to. Oscar Isaac valliantly tries to make something of it, and this is the most characterless role Christian Bale has ever had. Charlotte Le Bon is a well-intentioned sex object. Jean Reno, James Cromwell. The cinematography is shonky; the inside sets are jarringly poor. The plot is a mashup of perhaps A Quiet American, Doctor Zhivago, and I'm guessing as I still haven't seen it, Titanic. The morality is black and white: America before it needed to be made great again, with Turks who speak Turkish, Germans who speak German, and Armenians who of course speek God's English, until they became Godfather-esque emigres to Massachusetts and give toasts in Armenian to the survival of their nation. Apparently it is based on a true story.

Jeannette Catsoulis.

Free Fire

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For Sharlto Copley. Totally vacuous; I got a giggle out of him telling the Irish to "learn something from the English" about manners, early on, before things entirely settled into damaging but mostly non-lethal gunplay. See kids, you too can survive being shot! For an hour or so at least. I don't know how what could have sold the script for this to the cast (also Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, all better elsewhere). Reservoir Dogs? Cube?

Lady Macbeth

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A freebie from Griffin Theatre that I cashed at Dendy Opera Quays, 8:40pm. There was one other person in the theatre and the advertisements were the same as ever. The service was again lackluster; a singular pensioner felt the need to spend ten minutes buying a ticket and some junk food, chatting to the young service professional behind the counter while his colleagues chatted to each other far away from the service area. All I needed, and all I got, was a door number. The ride over and back was pleasant enough though, despite the cooler weather.

This was another interpretation of the venerable Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, perhaps by way of Wuthering Heights (the moors). The plot is almost pure Shakespeare, unsurprisingly: there is no justice, boredom motivates, filial duties are impossible or debased. Florence Pugh is in every scene and ably anchors the thing; Naomi Ackie and Cosmo Jarvis are excellent support. The cinematography is gorgeous, once past some jittery handheld camerawork. The episodic and quiet nature powerfully evokes the isolation and objectification of the leading lady, and her intemperate responses.

Peter Bradshaw. Sandra Hall. Jake Wilson. Manohla Dargis.

Misery

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Wow, what a find. James Caan in a supporting role in 1990, still with the power to untether Sonny Corleone on demand, but mostly genial. Kathy Bates stars, is awesome, and deservedly got an Oscar. Written by Stephen King, It's a bit of The Shining, Twin Peaks, Fargo, Sleuth and many other things. IMDB's summary doesn't do it justice; it's hilarious and a bit scary. I see now that director Rob Reiner has great form.

The Sheriff, apropos his deputy/wife: "You see, it's just that kind of sarcasm that's givin' our marriage real spice."

Alien Covenant

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Dendy Opera Quays, 6pm, $7; one of the cheap catch-up sessions they hold on weeknights. I was just out to see if the cinema had survived and got sucked into this. The service was super inefficient: two couples uhmmed and ahhed about what junk food would go best with this junk movie, almost until it was scheduled to start. No wonder hardly anyone goes any more.

This movie is dumb. The characters make dumb decisions, and everything that can go wrong is juxtaposed with every other thing that didn't need to go wrong for the scene to work. The result is a mess, and Ridley Scott seems to have nothing to say. Michael Fassbender tries to anchor what he can, and he does have his moments, but overall it is an arch and empty performance; his main squeeze Vikander played the aspirational synthetic with more promising menace in Ex Machina. This pretends to tell us something of the genesis of the Alien, and despite all claims it is not perfect; if it was, it wouldn't need to procreate in such a messy and destructive way. While bashing this busted mythos might prove more fun than this installment, I'll stop here.

Peter Bradshaw. A. O. Scott. Richard Brody watched it so you don't have to. Anthony Lane.

Manhunter

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OK, a 1980s Michael Mann. I guess it was in solid B-Movie territory in its day, but not all that close to the Arnie classics. Brian Cox tries to incarnate Lektor; here he is a minor character and nowhere close to owning the movie. It's all a bit too predictable from this point in history.

The Last of the Mohicans

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Second (or third?) time around: last seen in 2009. Daniel Day-Lewis with his shirt off, Madeleine Stowe tries to heave a bodice. Not at all as I remembered it; I thought the grey hair got his heart ripped out in the fort. Oh well. Clearly a forerunner (running dog?) of Dancing With Wolves, and they sure don't make these epics any more. The climax is a bit meh; the plot is essentially that you can't trust a white man (to make a good movie), though the natives and the scenery sometimes add up to something watchable. Michael Mann's best was yet to come (Heat), but I should perhaps watch Manhunter before passing that judgement. I did like his Thief.