peteg's blog

Joe (2013)

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More Nicolas Cage completism. Apparently this was a return-to-form after some dire pay-the-bill action movie roles. The title and subject — a volatile hard-drinking man who by helping a vulnerable boy so obviously puts himself on the path to destruction — suggested My Name is Joe to me.

This is a mostly-humourless piece of Southern realism. (There is some humour in the fine details of Cage's performance: "make a pain face ... then smile" for instance.) Cage's character is so selfless he'll give away his last cigarette, his lighter and engage in ultraviolence to no particular end. He just has so much to give. He organises a crowd of (possibly ex-con) Black men to (illegally?) poison trees which are to be replaced by a plantation. This might be a metaphor for the state of the culture. Indeed the whole thing is so unmodulated we know things are going to end in a burst of morally indubitable brutality. How else could it go when the only sane man in Austin, Texas is insane?

We never find out why that German Shepherd at the brothel is such an arsehole. Gary Poulter, playing the boy's father, looks and sounds like the some of the men in Twin Peaks.

A critic's pick by Stephen Holden. A punishing exercise in Southern miserablism. Quasi biblical. Four stars of five from Peter Bradshaw. David Gordon Green once was "the heir [apparent] to Terrence Malick".

Poor Things (2023)

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Inevitable after its heavy marketing over the awards season. In two sittings in the hope the plot wasn't as mono dimensional and determined as it is. Not for me.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who also directed Emma Stone in The Favourite which was also co-written by Victorian Tony McNamara. Based on a novel by Alasdair Gray. The bulk of it is recycled. The sets have an artificial aesthetic like older Jean-Pierre Jeunet (e.g. The City of Lost Children) but do not achieve his or Wes Anderson's aesthetic coherency. Perhaps this is a rip off of Barbie (unseen by me). The mixed creatures reminded me of Mars Attacks! — if only there was anything as priceless as Jessica Parker's chihuahua. The cinematography is a mix of black-and-white and colour in the style of The Wizard of Oz (also used by David Lynch in his Season 3 of Twin Peaks) with various distorting lenses.

There is so much unsexy sex. The essence of Emma Stone's role is a woman who has never been a girl. This apparently licences her to play a Candide who constructs the best of all possible worlds. We're told time and again that she's curious and desirous of experience and yet all she appears to learn is related to sexual matters; she's as monomaniacal as your average billionaire. The placement of books by the American pragmatists (Emerson) in her hands is mere gesture and affect. I guess it's a take on identity too, palely imitating David Lynch and not Face/Off. Her creator Willem Dafoe plays a solemn, simplistic Scots surgeon/experimenter/Frankenstein with far less imagination than Gene Wilder's neurotic effort in Young Frankenstein. Mark Ruffalo is disappointingly stagey and not great as a plummy English playboy. Ramy Youssef's character was rubbish. Yes, it was probably all intentional; I know the clearly signposted this-is-funny-laugh-now elements were. The entirety left me cold.

Very widely reviewed. Dana Stevens. A nature-v-nurture experiment. Sex brings colour to this world. Refreshing and revolutionary ... really? Ruffalo's ham starts to grate when he starts to whine. Manohla Dargis. Gleefully clever with sour laughs. Breaking the Waves. Michael Wood. Five stars from Peter Bradshaw. Vivisectional! — but not in a way Patrick White would recognise. A steampunk-retrofuturist Victorian freakout, more referents; more briefly, a recycling. Shane Danielsen. A neat reversal on Shelley, making Dafoe visibly the monster — but really just externalising Frankenstein's moral deformity in the original. Symbolic sex. She's into socialism because it's more honest. The cityscapes look like they were assembled by A.I. And so on. All seem to agree that it is a very derivative, very synthetic production.

El Conde (2023)

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Co-writer/director Pablo Larraín and co-writer Guillermo Calderón make Augusto Pinochet into a literal vampire (Jaime Vadell) and shot him in fabulous black-and-white. While potentially quite fertile they don't seem to know where to go so they introduce a nun (Paula Luchsinger) who, with a dispensation from the Church, has designs on both The Count and his loot. Notionally she's there to help The Count's five grasping children obtain their inheritance. Things burn slowly until a flurry of biting and backbiting, somewhat hastened by an underdeveloped Margaret Thatcher (Stella Gonet and in flashback Sofía Maluk), hurries the conclusion. It's heavy on symbolic references — I'm sure I missed most of them — but few have telling consequences.

Edward Lachman's cinematography is gorgeous. (He also assembled The Velvet Underground and shot Mildred Pierce and Howl and so on.)

A New York Times Critic's Pick by Amy Nicholson. Cheeky. The Count is hiding out in Patagonia. Doesn't have a satisfying resolution. Shane Danielsen. Alfredo Castro is good as the loyal White Russian manservant. A saggy middle and a slightly-out-of-control end. Carlos Aguilar.

Amor Towles: Table for Two: Fictions. (2024)

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Kindle. Towles's followup to The Lincoln Highway. The writing is often as elegant as his earlier efforts but none of these shorts are fantastic. In order:

  • The Line. Queuing was a big part of life in Moscow after the revolution and looking at how people queue can tell us a lot about a society. (Similarly for toilets and therefore for toilet queues.) Things get confusing as the bloke eventually waits multiple days for an exit visa interview and somehow communicates with the bloke he's in the queue for which presumably calls for another placeholding queuer. (Initially Towles takes care of these kinds of details but steadily loses resolution as Manhattan approaches.)
  • The Ballad of Timothy Touchett. Poor behaviour in the NYC rare books market. The resolution involves Paul Auster who died recently.
  • Hasta Luego. Community-supported alcoholism in NYC.
  • I Will Survive. A prolix domestic drama with a very minor payoff; at 20% of the length it would've been punchy. This is perhaps Towles expressing some permissible doubt about the totalitarianism of human centricity (in cities).
  • The Bootlegger. Social mores come unstuck and a moralising/OCD Wall St money man gets some comeuppance at a concert series in Carnegie Hall. Bach's Cello suites star; these had a moment a few years back.
  • The DiDomenico Fragment. An American dynasty has been parting out a DiDeminico masterpiece (of the Annunciation) for generations until one member decides it's time for a heist.

The hard-boiled novella Eve in Hollywood (a mild reworking of what I read previously) is superior to the shorts. I conclude Towles is better at length and just maybe his new stuff is not as good as his old stuff.

Hamilton Cain at the New York Times. Goodreads.

Winter Kills (1979)

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Prompted by Peter Sobczynski giving it a four-star review in 2023. J. Hoberman reviewed it at the same time; apparently its rerelease was sponsored by Tarantino. Based on a novel by Richard Condon (Prizzi's Honor, The Manchurian Candidate), directed and co-written by William Richert. The project pulled a stellar cast but squandered them by being overly difficult to follow.

The framing story is straightforward: more than a decade after his brother, the President, is assassinated, straight man Jeff Bridges (RFK, sort of) gets dragged into a series of set-piece conspiracy theory expositions. Initially the tone is dead serious but by the time we meet John Huston, playing Pa Kegan (Joe Kennedy), things are definitely screwy. (He has most of the good lines here. He gets his blood changed six-monthly with the kids from Amherst. He spent 11M USD to install his son in the White House — what a bargain!) This prepares us for Sterling Hayden hunting Bridges off his property with tanks and other World War II surplus vehicles and munitions. Eli Wallach played a handsy small-time fall-guy hood straight and deadpan. Anthony Perkins didn't get out of first gear as a psychotic expositor in a panopticon. Belinda Bauer had a When Harry Met Sally scene with Bridges. Liz Taylor in a severe cameo. It's never clear why anyone would help Bridges, why he's investigating, if this is a spoof, a satire or something else, if there's a point to it at all.

I can only wonder what it could've been if Huston had directed it; we get the odd whiff of his far more coherent The Man Who Would Be King.

Janet Maslin. Vincent Canby at length at the time. Roger Ebert (half everything) and Gene Siskel (very confusing, unfairly harsh on the Kennedy family). Wikipedia has all the details.

The Goldfinger (2023)

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Writer/director Felix Chong hit the big time when he wrote Infernal Affairs. Twenty years later here he is, repaying Scorcese's cloning of his masterwork by cloning Scorcese's The Wolf of Wall Street with the two leads of his earlier hit. Over a few sittings.

Tony Leung leads as an engineer turned property speculator in late 1970s to mid 1990s Hong Kong. He falls into a pot of money and becomes more crooked as time goes on, staying ahead of the law and keeping them away from his shady backers while attracting a bunch of amoral operators who love money. Andy Lau heads an ICAC taskforce that spends a decade or more trying to fry Leung. Things move dutifully from set piece to set piece with little to no explanation of anything. I found it difficult to follow the financial shenanigans. Much is made of sticking it to the Brits but confusingly they do seem particularly unhappy about it. There's a massive loss of momentum once we get to the courtroom scenes.

Leung has almost no lines (just punchlines) and spends most of his time pulling a variety of faces, most of which are variants of smirks. Andy Lau is mostly inert and is saddled with too many completely thankless cliched scenes with the wife and children. Anthony Pun's fancy cinematography is all smooth surfaces and soulless CGI.

Two stars of five from Wendy Ide. Cath Clarke: also Goodfellas. Two stars of four from Peter Sobczynski at Roger Ebert's website: also Goodfellas. (The smooth editing got me thinking of Casino.) Incidents don't amount to a story.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

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Some days you're just looking for a competently-executed escapist popcorn flick. This isn't one. It makes no sense — merely moving from one CGI set piece to the next — and the dialogue is excruciatingly bad. Much of it is impossible to follow if you're not steeped in recent Marvel lore. This might be forgivable if the imagery was any chop.

On the plus side, with half an hour to go, director Sam Raimi went all Evil Dead silly with a zombie Benedict Cumberbatch. (There's also a Bruce Campbell cameo.) But we've seen all that before.

A. O. Scott: dutiful fan service. This multiverse is so much less witty and imaginative than Everything Everywhere All at Once's. The best bits are the 1980s Raimi bits. Elizabeth Olsen is scary because she is so sad. Wikipedia: 294.5M USD of hot mess.

Mr. Klein (1976)

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And yet more Alain Delon completism. He leads here and also produced. The clear frame — an indifferent Frenchman buys art cheaply from Jews fleeing German-occupied Paris in 1942 — opens a mystifying tale of fatal stolen identity. Is it revenge or merely opportunism? The ladies don't even pretend to put up a fight with Delon but he barely notices them coming or going. Michael Lonsdale plays his lawyer.

I felt I missed some key scenes or wasn't parsing things quite right. It probably needs two goes to pin down all the details.

Vincent Canby. A metaphorical mystery melodrama. Less about the plot, more about identity and obsession; shades of David Lynch perhaps. "Mr. Delon is not aging especially well. Other actors with careers as long as his acquire, over the years, a lot of useful baggage in the form of associations to earlier performances. Mr. Delon has traveled a lot but his baggage is empty." Ouch.

Lone Wolf (2023)

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Domestic (t)errorism in Melbourne, July 2021 — which Wikipedia suggests was a time of lockdowns. The whole thing is so bad, so completely flawed. It's exactly what Brophy meant by Australian movies having TV production values. Hugo Weaving continues his heroic one-man project of reviving Australian cinema (c.f. The Royal Hotel etc.); I just wish he'd be more discerning in his choice of vehicles.

Righto, the framing conceit is that this is found footage which of course the makers cannot sustain for more than a few minutes. It's notionally based on Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (which I started and didn't get far into). The story is set in the tawdry, archaic fringes of sex shops, anarchists and huge, cheap Melbourne flats. The idea is to co-opt the local malcontents into committing a "victimless atrocity" that will improve the reelection prospects of the minister (Weaving). (The most inventive thing here is the choice of target, putting me in mind of Jarett Kobek's far superior Atta.) The first act is a self-admitted humdrum domestic drama while the second slides into a pure mess. Were they aiming for The Interview?

The central flaw was a mediocre script with poor dialogue that elicited poor performances from everyone. There's a dumbness to the main characters which made it hard to care what happened; it's a crass dumbness, not a comedic one like in Chris Morris's Four Lions or a knowing one like in The Castle. One has to feel for Stephen Curry whose best (or even decent) roles are long gone now. And the concluding scenes, well, they show a Tennant Creek you've never seen before.

Wendy Ide must've watched something else. None of the characters are sympathetic! I got the pointer from Chris Abrahams and Melanie Oxley who did some soundtrack work. It was funded by Screen Australia and the MIFF Premiere Fund. One can only hope that Albo's industry policy picks better winners.

Elliot Ackerman, James G. Stavridis: 2054: A Novel. (2024)

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Kindle. Some days you just want to read a competently-executed airport novel and instead you pick up a sequel significantly worse than its predecessor. Ackerman is deep into negative rewards now.

I've forgotten the specifics of what happened in 2034 but that turned out not to matter. What's at stake in 2054 is more-or-less what's at stake in 2024: a presidential assassination sets off January 6 militia activity and the military fragments along ideological lines. Kurzweil and his one-man creation of "The Singularity" are mentioned regularly but not analysed. Its use as a plot device is woefully underbaked. A major character from 2034 presents as Wintermute and these authors have all the problems William Gibson faced in the early 1980s: cyberspace can be accessed from everywhere but these guys only understand zooming around in meatspace. Just go read Permutation City already.

Perhaps it's supposed to be more about the themes or what isn't explicitly spelt out; they make and repeat many assertions unsupported by argument. The "blood and soil" trope is deployed to explain the recruiting of an ethnic Chinese/American citizen corporate woman by the Chinese Communist regime via a redundant Nigerian cutout and yet the same essentialism does not apply to the American or Indian characters. This isn't plausible for people whose parents were killed or bullied by the state — just look at the huge Chinese diaspora, especially the departure of so many from Hong Kong over the last 30 years, the Irish, the Russian emigres, the Poles and Nordics. Consider the name Hendrickson! In any case there's a far more sophisticated take on national and political loyalties in The Sympathizer. Are the authors demonstrating the inability of America to understand Asia or learn from history?

Their history is all key man, that there are a few choke points that can control the application of knowledge. At scale this may be so (developing nuclear technology for instance) but as the army of digital nomads and the hackers working for nation-states well know, much can be done remotely with widely distributed teams and hardware. The future may have no locus to nuke, no individual or tractable group to assassinate, no Assange to serve as a warning to the others. Perhaps that's what happens in 2074.

Their solution to America's problems is to install a wise military man (an Eisenhower?) for a limited-duration reset and (literally) marry China and move to Vermont. (The whole process is undemocratic but somehow placates the various mobs.) The Supreme Court is totally absent and they don't explain how the power-mad institution was tamed between now and then. The veteran in a wheelchair is an obvious nod to Oliver Stone (a plea to direct the movie version?) and Ron Kovic. The rising country of India (so important in 2034) does not feature. There's some Herzogian madness on the Amazon ... and a touch of The Boys from Brazil as they approach their heart of darkness/enlightenment. The gambling is tiresome.

Hari Kunzru at the New York Times did say it wasn't much chop. Goodreads was generally disappointed.

Late Night With the Devil (2023)

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After a promising retro intro we're served up a homage to generic horror tropes and 1970s late night talk shows. There's an excess of derivative style and nothing to suspend disbelief. The sales pitch is The Blair Witch Project realism but Australian writer/directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes don't have the guts (or is it brains?) to run with it. This causes a fatal loss of momentum in the final twenty minutes or so and incongruities from about the halfway mark. The central concept, that this is found footage, is unsound: they cannot show us the fake and the real if the camera never lies, and too often things are shot from an angle that can have nothing to do with the TV production or a putative behind-the-scenes operator. It's a view of nothing new from nowhere.

The cast all don American accents but appear to be Australian apart from lead David Dastmalchian. It's a slick production in the mode of TV; exactly what Philip Brophy trashed in a discussion with Jason Di Rosso recently. (I did not rate Brophy's derision while listening but watching this was a rueful corrective.) The framing suggested it'd be closer to The Ring, with some fallout in the exurbs... like Brophy's Body Melt.

Alissa Wilkinson observed the flaws and references but still found a way to hammer the marketing. Jared Richards, similarly. Christos Tsiolkas, similarly, but how on Earth did he find this "genuinely frightening"? Anxiety and fear but no terror. At least Matt Zoller Seitz remains as skeptical as Roger Ebert. Many critics decry the use of AI-generated imagery.

La Chimera (2023)

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Grave robbing in 1980s Tuscany. The lead (Josh O'Connor) is, of course, English and has the critical skill of divining the location of tombs containing valuable artefacts. We meet him on a train returning from a bout of incarceration where he proves as irresistible to the ladies as Richard Burton's defrocked priest in The Night of the Iguana despite lacking the presence and voice. Like Orpheus he's lost and bereaved in the waking/above ground world.

The rest of the gang is a bit rag-tag and sometimes amusing. There's some fun made of gender roles. The romantic aspects left me cold: notionally he's still in love with a dead girl (who we see in flashbacks but whose character is not developed) which explains his dour mien but not his willingness to jump into bed with an uptight "broomstick" (Carol Duarte). Isabella Rossellini does a great job as a matriarch in a decaying mansion. She's fantastic in the scene where we meet her daughters but things are too cliched after the wild inventiveness of the tomb robbing.

Overall things were a bit too loose, too vague. I enjoyed the diversity of languages, including sign language which struck me as almost universal. There are quite a few pile ons / overlapping dialogues (the Englishman's gang and the daughters) which was effective ala Robert Altman. The magic realism has a dash of Guillermo del Toro without the violence and graphic imagery. It is slightly artificial like a Hal Hartley but less so.

Prompted by Jason Di Rosso's interview with co-writer/director Alice Rohrwacher. She's great but his attempts to help her out by rephrasing her responses were unnecessary and a bit annoying. She knew what she was trying to do! Luke Goodsell: Indiana Jones! James Bond! I think not. A Critic's Pick by Manohla Dargis. Peter Bradshaw: five stars! An interview with Rossellini. Later Michael Wood summarised it for us.

The 'Maggie' (or High and Dry) (1954)

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Another idle bit of Ealing-comedy completism. Basically materialistic American businessman Paul Douglas is trying to furnish a surprise love nest for his wife and needs to move a pile of expensive stuff up the coast from Glasgow. No ships are available so his inept English agent Hubert Gregg ends up hiring a coal-carting "puffer" that only usually plies the calmer waters. The wily old captain Alex Mackenzie knows his trade very well and stuffs the job up completely. It takes a young lady at a 100th birthday celebration and "the wee boy" Tommy Kearins to wise the American up to the merits of unaspirationalism.

There are a very few funny bits but they aren't that funny. Engineer Abe Barker has some fun sticking it to the captain. Early on much is made about the captain's sister owning the boat, and that the law is out for him, but these are underused and left unresolved.

Bosley Crowther dug it from across the Atlantic.

Fallen Angels (1995)

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Some very late Wong Kar-Wai completism prompted by the Christopher Doyle biopic. This has some of their classic cinematography made famous by Chungking Express but is disjointed and opts for the thematic, making it seem like offcuts from something more coherent. Over two widely-spaced nights due to a failure to grip.

The more developed thread has Leon Lai as an assassin whose agent Michelle Reis is in love with him. Somehow he's more interested in Karen Mok's Blondie. Mostly separately elfin Takeshi Kaneshiro breaks into various food vendor premises including an ice cream truck to zany effect. He's mute (but narrates for us) so potential squeeze Charlie Yeung has to do all the talking. There's the odd semi-decent grounding scene with his father Man-Lei Chan in Chungking Mansions.

Roger Ebert found three stars. Pure cinema? Stephen Holden: weightless. Excess details at Wikipedia. I prefer Wong Kar-Wai's lover movies to these fighter ones.

Scorpio (1973)

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Alain Delon and Burt Lancaster completism, prompted by the Delon retrospective in NYC presently. Aging but not yet decrepit secret-agent lion Lancaster tasks young Turk (and cat fancier!) Delon with one more assassination in photogenic Paris. Afterwards the CIA decides it's time Lancaster retired and who else for the job but his protege Delon? The ladies get pro forma bit parts — there are some sweet but inconsequential scenes between Delon and his sister Mary Maude, and Gayle Hunnicutt and Joanne Linville are asked to do a little bit more — as things generally go as Cold War spy game movies do.

On the plus side it works fine as a time capsule of Washington, Vienna and Paris at the time, and Delon's feline affinity surely cannot be fake. (There are some great cats including a street cat that he chooses as a gift from his girlfriend.) Some of the dialogue is amusingly sharp and the ambiguity of Lancaster's loyalties works to some extent. (Clearly he is loyal to individuals and that is reciprocated.) Paul Scofield has the presence to play a Soviet spymaster and makes the most of his limited screentime. The CIA as embodied by John Colicos is implausibly inept.

Delon and Lancaster were paired in The Leopard ten years previously, in 1963. I'd say this continued Lancaster's late-career renaissance which I think we can date to The Swimmer in 1968.

Roger Ebert: two-and-a-half stars: dissipated, tried to do too much. But the screenwriters David Rintels and Gerald Wilson wrote some good dialogue! Too similar to director Michael Winner's earlier The Mechanic. Roger Greenspun: Lancaster and Scofield are buddies from the antifascist days. I didn't think it was so bad. IMDB trivia: at the time of filming the production company stayed at the Watergate coincidentally with the famous break in. Lancaster performed his own stunts — I'm sceptical though Delon obviously does. I found Lancaster's blackface/Afro priest hilarious.

Dashiell Hammett: The Collected Dashiell Hammett (1929 to 1951)

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Kindle. Having read all his novels it was time to plough through the shorts and these proved as addictive as I expected. The Continental Op ones did get a bit shallow at times but you have to admire his stamina. The final The First Thin Man ends on a cliffhanger which makes complete sense when you read at Wikipedia that's it an early draft of The Thin Man.

Most anomalous is the short Tulip apparently first published in 1966. Hammett put all his styles into it and something new; the scattered autobiographical elements, the sharp observations and lack of sleuths suggest an attempt at renewal that didn't eventuate.

Dick Locthe in 2000. A lengthy biography by Claudia Roth Pierpont in 2002: beyond the well-known stuff much is disappointing.

Dune (2021) and Dune: Part Two (2024)

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I needed a refresher on the first part as it's been about two-and-a-half years since I saw it. It strikes me now as mostly pose and expound but even so is an improvement on its successor. Notionally I was watching the second part for Florence Pugh but she has an inert, almost nonspeaking role. Christopher Walken does too and yet somehow out acts Chalamet despite being powerfully, frailly immovable at 80 or so. I felt Flo was as poor a choice for princess material as Rebecca Ferguson was as a concubine but at least Ferguson got to move a bit.

Again the cast is vast and sometimes well used. However the whole show is very derivative of the last few decades of mega movies (I'll spare you an enumeration). It's lengthy and squanders that length with excess repetition; the dream/forecast sequences could've been trimmed down which would've left more room for general story/character/whatever development or a toilet break/intermission. Javier Bardem repeatedly entreating Chalamet to slay him really resonated with me: let's get this over with! Josh Brolin again did what he could with a numpty character; how did they make his smuggler so much less than Han Solo? Austin Butler may yet grow up to be Ryan Reynolds. Dave Bautista is so completely unmodulated it must have been the fault of director Denis Villeneuve. Stellan Skarsgård phoned it in; if they'd got Tom Cruise back into a fat suit instead it would've been worth every penny.

Leaving so many loose threads dangling only make sense if there's going to be a third part. (The scowl on Zendaya's face at the end says there obviously must be a third part.) Introducing mega actresses Léa Seydoux and Anya Taylor-Joy in brief almost-cameos would only be worthwhile if they have larger roles in a third part. There's going to be a third part.

At this point I'd say David Lynch's effort was superior. The main failing here is with casting Chalamet as the lead: the producers needed a Paul who was a bit fruity like Peter O'Toole or Kyle MacLachlan (or Sting without his shirt) or a man who doesn't look so childish next to Brolin and Jason Momoa. Jostling with that for first place is the mythology of the spice which we're shown none of: Bardem, despite having partaken of it all his life, is now a broken-down man, while the Jedi mind tricks of the female cult are acquired by training not (just) drugs. The visions (including those of Paul's sister) are a long way from the spectacle of 2001 or The Tree of Life. And so on and on.

Widely reviewed of course. A critic's pick by Manohla Dargis. Dana Stevens: "each really constituting one-half of a full story arc" — I don't think so! She mistakes gesture for foundation. If the book is from 1965 it is obviously drawing heavily from Lawrence of Arabia. "Like Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga..." — please, let's keep it polite. Jake Wilson: "Neither a zippy adventure nor a metaphysical mind-bender, this Dune has the heaviness of an old-fashioned Hollywood epic." And a partial enumeration of lifted materials. Jason Di Rosso interviewed Melbourne-born cinematographer Greig Fraser (and I don't remember a thing). And so on. Overall it's just that it's new.

Whisky Galore! (1949)

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#5 on a random Guardian list of Ealing comedies. The fictional island Todday in the Outer Hebrides runs out of whisky in 1943. This is relieved by the running aground of a ship carrying 50,000 cases of the stuff. The local home guard is lead by uptight Englishman Basil Radford who wants to prevent the wily (Scots) locals from recovering the goods. He is easily evaded. Somehow Joan Greenwood is deemed the co-lead with Radford despite being only involved in some minor romantic stuff with sergeant Bruce Seton. It's well constructed but pedestrian with a lot of filler between a few genuinely funny bits.

Wikipedia. Somehow it got remade in 2016.

Enter the Dragon (1973)

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The name is Lee, Bruce Lee, and this was the last of his leading-role features for me to catch up on. I hadn't realised just how much Brad Pitt ripped off his persona in Fight Club and similarly how literally Tarantino lifted much of this for Kill Bill.

The plot is a train wreck. Notionally Bruce and other martial artists are drawn to an island off the coast of Hong Kong for a tournament. Everyone has their reasons for being there, told in dissolved flashback, but the premise doesn't survive Bond-adjacency. John Saxon co-leads as a suave Sean Connery-esque American gambler with debts and scruples who happens to know Jim Kelly from the American activities in Việt Nam from six years prior. Kelly gets all the ladies because Bruce is too busy taking care of business as instructed by his Shaolin-descended master.

The climax is unsatisfying perhaps because it is unclear master villain Kien Shih can take it to Lee; there's a lot of in-close shots and choppy editing in all the fight scenes. What's with the missing hand? — things got pure Wolverine at the end. The Brits turn up too late to do anything useful. I had to wonder who'd be dumb enough to be a stunt man in a Bruce Lee flick in 1973. There's some great cinematography especially of Hong Kong harbour; it's a bit of a time capsule like Melville's take on roughly contemporaneous Paris.

Everything is at Wikipedia. An early blaxploitation! Once again Jackie Chan is apparently in there somewhere.

The Way of the Dragon (1972)

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Bruce Lee's third time leading a feature and far better than the first two, probably because he also wrote and directed. Famous for its climatic fight with Chuck Norris in the Colosseum in Rome.

As always the plot doesn't make a tonne of sense. Bruce gets sent by Nora Miao's uncle to help her out in Rome where the restaurant she just inherited is under pressure from the local hoods (mafia). She wanted a lawyer but for flimsy reasons everything is settled with martial arts and so Bruce is her man. He once again disappoints her in the love business. There seems to be a rule that you only get one go per murder method (why not try again with guns?) and that the Chinese form(s) dominate Karate. Secretary Ping-Ou Wei is very camp, very weird.

Roger Ebert: two stars. The version I saw apparently cut all the translation crap that stuck in his craw. #58 on the Golden Horse list of the 100 Greatest Chinese-Language Films. Excess details at Wikipedia.