peteg's blog - noise - movies

Casino

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Apparently the third time around, and so much less impressive than I remembered — perhaps I was thinking of a different movie, or have seen too many Sharon Stones recently. She only has one mode, and Pesci struggles at time to hold up his end of their dialogues, especially in that first confidence-spilling scene. Scorcese, of course. I wasn't that persuaded by De Niro, even less than usual. James Woods has so little to work with. I couldn't connect Kevin Pollak here with him in The Usual Suspects. Still #143 in the IMDB top-250.

Brilliant Lies

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Second time around maybe. I think I fished this one out of Dr What! in Bondi back in the days of DVDs. Gia and Zoe Carides play sisters in this David Williamson take on the sexual politics of the day: it's a mid-90s he-said she-said and then she-really-said #metoo sorta thing with a side of unconvincing lesbian taxi driving and all-too-authentic inhalation of those fatal Winfield blues. Punching bag Anthony LaPaglia scored a wife (Gia, now separated) out of it, which is more than we do. Perhaps this was where the wave broke for Williamson, when Australia could finally tell the difference between the cask and the bottle.

Don's Party

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Another David Williamson classic that I hadn't seen in an age. The copy I have has a terrible sound mix: it's very difficult to hear the dialogue at times. Somewhat #metoo topical. The blokes — Ray Barrett, John Hargreaves, Harold Hopkins (did he really just say that?), Graham Kennedy, Graeme Blundell — all were or got famous, but the ladies — Clare Binney, Pat Bishop, Veronica Lang, Candy Raymond and with the exception of Jeanie Drynan — slid into obscurity. Hmm. The credits suggest it was filmed in what is now Baulkham Hills. Great days...

The Club

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Last seen an age ago; we studied this David Williamson classic for the HSC in the mid-90s, and even then it seemed archaic. Jack Thompson goes all-in as the true-believing VFL coach at a time of rapid commercialisation. Graham Kennedy is solid as the petit bourgeoisie, similarly Frank Wilson as the hypocritical keeper-of-tradition Jock. Harold Hopkins plays the loyal but fading captain, John Howard the rising champion. Alan Cassell nails the greasy sports administrator. It's all canonical stuff and an ode to a dead Australia.

From Dusk Till Dawn

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The most dispensable Tarantino?

The Big Sleep

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Apparently the third time around, and I still didn't remember anything. Bogart is somehow a babe magnet and has some fun with Bacall. A still highly rated Howard Hawks classic but no longer in the IMDB top-250. William Faulkner got a writing credit for adapting a Raymond Chandler short story. The dialogue is pretty funny.

The Usual Suspects

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A Kevin Spacey / Gabriel Byrne / Bryan Singer classic. Still #26 on the IMDB top-250.

The Loved One

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Second time around. The screenplay based on Evelyn Waugh's book is ascribed to Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood.

The Game

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David Fincher, not at his best. Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, none at their best either.

Janet Maslin calls it: just a bunch of scenes wedged together. I see it now as an echo of a 1980s genre: After Hours, and Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. There's also the whole Gordon Gekko thing.

The Lord of the Rings movies.

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Specifically the three extended editions over three nights for the second time. The first one promises more than the second two deliver. The bits lifted from Tolkien are not great but the non-canonical parts are a lot worse. The dialogue and asides-to-camera are occasionally comically risible, as is some of the CGI; even the actors playing hobbits look uncomfortable at the King's coronation. I got bored with the endless battle scenes. It's epic, but nowhere close to the classics.

Wayne

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At The Ritz, 18:10, Cinema 2, $10. Two blokes and me I think. Very few sessions, and this was the only one I could make on a work day.

This film by Jeremy Sims documents Wayne Gardner's rise from racing dirtbikes near Wollongong to winning the Moto GP in 1987. It showcases the height of Australiana in the 1980s, specifically the Bicentennial in 1988, and the shysters and sportcasters of the day. Taking up more than a third of the story is his girlfriend, later wife, later good-friend ex Donna Fraser.

I didn't and don't know enough about the Moto GP to understand what he was riding when (there is some early talk of 250cc and 500cc classes, and the smaller three-cylinder bikes being far easier to ride than the monstrous fours) but it's clear from the footage that the bike Honda supplied him with in 1988 was not up to scratch. The way they concurrently hired his arch-rival Eddie Lawson has got to make you wonder. Some time is spent on the construction of the Australian GP at Phillip Island. Most of the interviews are gold. Casey Stoner is a notable absentee (and a fellow victim of Honda engineering?).

Afterwards I aimed for Jack's Pizza on Coogee Bay road, but he's decided to retire from Mondays, so I ended up at the North Indian Diner closer to the beach.

Paul Byrnes.

Talk Radio

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Eric Bogosian's big splash, second time around. He talks pretty much continuously throughout and that in itself is pretty amazing; depressingly what he says would pass for high brow these days. Alec Baldwin in a greasy mullet (looking more like Trump then than he does now) plays the radio station boss. John C. McGinley hams it up in fine style as the phone screener/engineer. A coked-up Michael Wincott jag from The Doors; also via Oliver Stone who adapted Bogosian's play and directed.

Vincent Canby was very unimpressed back in the day.

Casino

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FIXME

Hollow Man

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Tonight my Verhoeven retrospective resumed with his entirely dispensable farewell to Hollywood. It's strange he got to make this after the twin flops of Showgirls and Starship Troopers; clearly he was on a leash as the nudity is brief, not at all erotic, and very separate from the cartoonish violence. The characters are dumb as bricks. The plot is B-grade horror; Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi knew how to leaven the dreck with humour, which is entirely absent from this. Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin: all better elsewhere, and none acquit themselves here.

A. O. Scott at the time.

The Happytime Murders

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Spur-of-the-moment trip to The Ritz, 9pm, Cinema 4, four rows from the front, centre, $10. All the kids were going to see Spike Lee; this one got maybe ten people total. The Freddie Mercury biopic short looked kinda retro-cool, as does the Jimmy Barnes biopic. Kin probably needed a few more ideas even to make a decent trailer. Crazy Rich Asians is not for me.

The feature is something of a Team America derivative made by Muppet scion Brian Henson. (Dave: "Yeah why not. Be nice to laugh at Muppets for a change instead of working with them or watching them stop the boats.") It fails to combine the filth with enough humour to keep the audience from recoiling. For instance, the makers were so proud to have incorporated the most famous Basic Instinct scene that they played it time and again. The carpet does indeed not match the curtains, enough already. The making-of during the end credits was on balance better than the movie itself. I think this is the first time I've seen Melissa McCarthy. I walked out past an old guy, sitting at the end of a row, comatose.

A. O. Scott.

Angel Heart

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A recommendation by Dariusz, in retaliation for my telling him to go watch The Devil's Advocate. It's 1987, and Mickey Rourke pretends to be a 1950s private dick looking for a bloke in NYC and later New Orleans, but mostly finding women (notably Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling). De Niro plays the kingpin, patiently reeling in his patsy. Some of the cinematography is gorgeous (thanks Michael Seresin). I got a bit lost wondering what I was supposed to know when; the bodies pile up as one might expect but it's unclear why we'd care, even after the big reveal. The occult stuff is a bit lame.

The Doors

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An Oliver Stone production from 1991; I vaguely remember the saturation coverage. Val Kilmer plays Jim Morrison, and some other people play the rest of The Doors, notably Kyle MacLachlan. Meg Ryan is the girlfriend/muse. Michael Wincott could probably do a decent Tom Waits simulation, or play John Lazar's parts if Russ Meyer's stuff ever gets remade. I was never a big fan of the band (just a couple of songs) and this unedifying movie did nothing to change my mind. Is this homage or imitation? It's certainly the bacchanalia Stone imagines he experienced. Morrison's poetry often seems no better than doggerel. One for the fans? Or perhaps they too were offended by how shallow it is.

Candy

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You've read the book, now see the movie. The cast is stellar: Richard Burton takes it to the limit as the poet MacPhisto, Marlon Brando seems to be training for Apocalypse Now, James Coburn gets to ham it up as a brain butcher, Ringo Starr has his first role away from his bandmates. I hadn't realised John Huston acted as well as directed. Ewa Aulin plays the ingenue. Christian Marquand is in charge but clearly not in control: the result of all this talent was an unwatchable mess with very little to recommend it. Which is exactly what I expected, so I wasn't disappointed.

Cleopatra

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Booked 2018-08-09, $8 + $1.50 online booking fee, 2:30pm, Cinema 2, about four rows in, first time around. Ultimately three-quarters packed I'd say. Beforehand lunch was at Taste of Thai (tofu/egg salad with peanut sauce, tasty indeed) and coffee at the little cafe near the Royal Hotel that I hadn't been to for years. A beaut day with a cold wind. The prevalence of cheap flights still hasn’t prepared people to sit through marathon classics.

So much ink has been spilt on the Liz and Dick show already that I'll restrict myself to some trainspotting. It's very long and hasn't aged too well. It's often difficult to follow who's fighting and why. Cleopatra's one world, one people, peace yadda, etc. vision is patently ridiculous and presented without conviction. At one point Liz plunges a dagger deeply and repetitively into a bed, doubtlessly scarring a young Paul Verhoeven for life. Alexander cast a long shadow. The sets are elaborate. Rex Harrison as Caesar comes away the cleanest.

As for the fashion: Taylor's first outfit struck me as an áo dài, perhaps a little less modest: all her gear has a scooped neck or more, setting the standard for drag queens right up to the present. It made me wonder what impact Madame Nhu had on the gear of the early 1960s. The busts are pure Russ Meyer. I wondered about the distracting scar on Taylor's neck: IMDB tells me she had an emergency tracheotomy during the early abortive filming sessions in England. The asp imagery is excessive. The Romans mostly sport English accents, which in concert with the Kennedy situation of the day, and continuing rise of the USA, made me wonder if director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was suggesting a new Rome.

The later histrionics get a bit tedious and prefigure the later Burton / Taylor dynamic so well captured in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Peter Nichols reviews the 2001 three-disc DVD release.

Lord Jim

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After liberating the Bedouin, Peter O'Toole decided to spend a few years in Cambodia attempting the same for Conrad's Malays. Eli Wallach plays The General before he was ugly. Somehow they got Sihanouk to allow them to film at Angkor. The story is something of a complement to Heart of Darkness: the installation of a not-quite-Kurtz amongst suggestible up-river natives? The ruminations on colonialism are superficial: inside every whiteman a General is trying to get out, the native women are always available and willing, everyone is compromised. Overall it's too talky and Shakespearean-pretentious. James Mason does OK as a Southern outlaw (from another movie). Curd Jürgens, furniture. Is Daliah Lavi in blackface?