peteg's blog - noise - movies

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.

Gangs of New York

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Pretty sure I saw this before, but I can't remember when. Scorcese's dry run for The Departed (better known as Infernal Affairs)? Leonardo, a mole, a kingpin, a love interest, a violent corruption. I was here for Daniel Day-Lewis, so recently retired from acting, only to realise that the cast was vast: John C Reilly, DiCaprio, Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Graham (from This is England), Eddie Marsan. The editing was nowhere close to his masterful Casino, and somehow it didn't add up to much of anything. The Academy awarded the booby prize of ten nominations and no statues.

Japanese Story

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Someone recommended this one to me a while back. It is, unfortunately, crap. Toni Collette is too good for this stuff. The first two-thirds is cliche-ridden drivel; there's never any tension or possibility that they won't, despite the lack of chemistry between the stars. The cinematography is OK but Australia looks better almost everywhere else; even in real life! Some people reviewing this at IMDB call it racist, but I tend to think it's more laziness, a feeble portrayal of the now-fading mining boom through the eyes of the last people in Perth who are culturally ignorant, and retain some connection to the war. The money may have been better spent on recording oral history at the RSLs; you know, a complement to the roughly-contemporary Crackerjack. (Ah yes, the beer at authentic 1972 prices.) Colette's ockerisms make it look like she's not even trying.

Nocturnal Animals

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The most inessential movie I've seen in a long time. It's not fun, it's not insightful, it's not pretty. The best part is Michael Shannon, who's solid but hasn't got a lot to work with. Amy Adams is completely frosty, and entirely lacking an internal life. I don't see how this could ever have seemed to be more than it is, a slight horrible thing.

Days of Heaven (1978)

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Closer to Terrence Malick's more recent efforts, like To The Wonder; here there is twirling, and fields of wheat, but there is no twirling in the fields of wheat. The cinematography is again fantastic. The plot is abridged Shakespeare. Richard Gere is young, and perhaps surprised by not going to make movies of the calibre that Martin Sheen did; but Gere carries a hot temper far less plausibly, and so much less dangerously. I guess he could still earn an Oscar nom as Slick Willy in a Hillary restrospective. Sam Shepard, about whom I feel at best neutral (from his play writing and The Right Stuff), is strangely passive until he isn't, and then he really isn't. Why could he not find a worthy and sturdy beauty at the local B&S? Morricone practices his harbingers-of-doom scoring that he fully realised two decades later in Lolita. Brooke Adams, anchoring the love triangle, is mostly characterless and simply goes for the guy with the biggest stash every time she gets to choose. I think it was B Movies for her from here on out.

Badlands (1973)

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Terrence Malick's debut was a proforma for the many Bonnie and Clydes that followed. There's even something of Natural Born Killers here; perhaps Oliver Stone was remaking the movies that made Martin Sheen a star. As always there was some great cinematography. I wasn't so convinced by Sissy Spacek, and I needed to be for the thing to be more than a piece of fluff. Sheen is so young and gets compared with James Dean. His character is the opposite of Jim Caviezel's in The Thin Red Line; just as lost, but with nothing on the inside. The plot is a bit crap, the characters just cardboard.

Three Kings

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A stray reference from somewhere reminded me that I hadn't seen this in an age. Early Clooney and Wahlberg, with neither quite out of their previous zones. Ice Cube sort-of anchors the thing, and the humour is of a late 90s America that has Bush War I well in the rear view mirror. The comedic parts work the best, but it is somewhat depressing to reflect on now.

Freaks and Pink Flamingos

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$10, 8:30pm notional start. A somewhat strange double feature put on by the Chauvel as part of their Cine-vault series. Perhaps a total of 20 people in the crowd, most of whom wanted to sit right near me despite the sparseness, and me moving. The ride over was fast, just ten minutes against the twenty minute par for the Google car driving grandma, but also quite horrible.

Well! David S told me a long while back that he was a fan of Freaks (1932), so it was always on my mind to see it. The bloke fired up the old 35mm projector and snapped the "brittle" print after a minute or so, during the framing text. A quick splice got us about another five minutes before the next snap, and he then decided to put Pink Flamingos (1972) on (I think in DVD format) while he did some deeper surgery. Yeah, I probably would've walked out on the latter if they'd stuck to the advertised program.

Anyway, Freaks was worth it, I guess. The acting is generally pretty good, though I was expecting more trapeze (and sundry circus). The plot is pure Shakespeare.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Palace Cinemas, Norton St, $16, 9pm. 7 people total in the theatre. Wasn't feeling like going home, so I had a pizza at Da Noi a flat white at the cinema, and read my not-great book for an hour in their foyer. It was almost totally dead.

This movie is boring. It has loads of clangers and cliched humour, pauses signalling where the audience should be laughing. Some of the visuals are fun, but there's nothing new here. I should have braved a movie made for grown ups.

Manohla Dargis.

District 9

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Second time around, late, with Dave, for a Sharlto Copley fix. Neill Blomkamp is gifted but he has yet to surpass this initial outing.

Difficult Pleasure (1989)

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At the State Library, mid-afternoon, one hour. I sought out this interview with Brett Whiteley after visiting his studio a few weeks back. He was definitely at the mystical end of things; by declaiming in the style of RJL Hawke, dropping names, conceptualising, swearing and no-nonsense rank pulling gave some gravitas to his pretension to being a philosopher-artist. His comments on his Alchemy strongly suggest that it is incoherent.

Man on Fire

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Proceeding with another past-prime Denzel outing (this time from 2004), I really ended up watching Fantastic Mr Fox on the screen of the kid in front of me, between the seats, on the flight from Doha to Sydney. Once again this is pure formula, with some choppy camerawork that often makes for motion sickness. Dakota Fanning was pretty good as the kid. If I got it right, crooked Mickey Rourke doesn't get any comeuppance. Christopher Walken is similarly phoning it in. Drecky.

The Equalizer

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I've been meaning to watch more of Denzel Washington's movies since forever. This one, from 2014, suggests that for all his good and early hard work he's slipped into a comfortable formula of vigilantism, the man with the secret (violent) past who really just wants to help. They play New Dawn Fades late on, just before the credits, which of course was but one aspect of the far richer Heat from almost twenty years previous. And that was indeed Chloƫ Grace Moretz playing the Russian sex slave, showing just how far she's come from Kick Ass. Really just a sop to those who pine for B-Movies (ala Gil Scott Heron).

Passengers

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I'm not a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence (I liked her in American Hustle), and while Chris Pratt can be some fun I avoided this largely due to the dodgy premise of a woman, woken into a hopeless situation, forgiving the man who dun it. Also the reviews were so-so, and now I see the editing was a bit crap too. Morpheus doesn't work any magic before he croaks, and there isn't any kind of twist at the end. I enjoyed the aesthetic, perhaps because it is so reassuringly unoriginal, and I guess it's nice to see interstellar lurv too weak to bend the universe out of shape. Got the first half between Zurich and Doha, and the second half from Doha to Sydney.

Another problem that I couldn't get out of my head: how was JLaw going to get back to Earth after her year on Homestead II?

Assassin's Creed

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I feel that good movies are not wasted by watching them on aeroplanes, so on the Zurich to Doha leg of a trip back to Sydney I sought out this piece of uniformly-panned dreck from 2016. The draw was Fassbender, who somehow thought this was so worth making (or would make enough to be worth it) that he produced it. The rest of the cast is also excellent elsewhere, but not here: Marion Cotillard so far from Lady Macbeth, Brendan Gleeson (again as Fassbender's Dad), Michael Kenneth Williams (memorable in The Night of). The whole thing is risible and nonsensical.

Colossal

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At the dear old Verona, 8:50pm session, spur of the moment, $16.00 for the ticket and another $4.50 for a coffee. Earlier I had a penang and roti at Time for Thai, tasty as ever. A scan of A. O. Scott's review led me to think it wouldn't be as dire as it turned out to be; so dire in fact that there were only two other people in Theatre 2. It finds many things to allude to (the abusive drinking evokes Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and the ending is almost pure Fight Club) while having almost nothing to say itself. Hathaway's solution to being on the receiving end of controlling violence is to get her kaiju avatar to dispose of the bloke in question. It's a bit like the utopians who propose technological fixes for everything, but I'm probably too obtuse (or disengaged) to properly interpret the metaphor. I found it strange to set some of it in South Korea but not have a Korean director. That might have been awesome.

On the bright side there's a movie about Brett Whiteley coming out: Whiteley.

The Wrestler.

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Third time around, last seen seven years past. The IMDB rating has gone for a slide, as has Mickey Rourke's revival. Time for another tale of the washed up?

The Lego Batman Movie

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At The Ritz, 12:10pm, $16. Rode over from Glebe under grey skies. The queue was huge, loads of kids, but it turned out that most were going to see Beauty and the Best — theatre 3 ended up about two-thirds full. I was going to sit in the front row but really, even from the third the screen is too high. This was OK but not as fun as The Lego Movie; the default mode was to ramp up the frenzy and lay on the one liners at every opportunity, but it succeeded best when poking retcon fun at all previous outings. The Batman character was better in smaller doses ("First time!"), and they tried a bit too hard with the plot. Could they not say Dalek? Had a late lunch at Chao Praya, a coffee at Kokkino Kafe, tried to do some thinking/work at UNSW Library (some rain during), rode home under blue skies.

Manohla Dargis.

Ghost in the Shell

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The 1995 anime, third or fourth time around. All I remember is that the voice acting (English language version?) is not very good. I wonder if anyone will imagine a non-violent dystopia, one where the matrix works fully properly, or Neo hacks rather than kung fus. Prompted by the new one with Scarlett Johansson, which I doubt I will see.

Split

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For James McAvoy, and his performance is solid. It's just that everything else is ridiculous.

Anthony Lane. Indeed, "an old-fashioned exploitation flick." A. O. Scott is more willing to indulge, endorse and excuse this tosh.