peteg's blog

Big

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With Jacob and his kids. I don't think I've seen this before, but of course it was entirely familiar as a late 1980s body switcheroo school flick. It's more adult themed than I expected. I mistook Robert Loggia for Gene Hackman, who does appear in a movie in the movie. Director Penny Marshall is clearly a baseball fan, though both Jake and I read the Giants and the bridge as signs we were in San Francisco instead of NYC and New Jersey.

Janet Maslin at the time.

John Brunner: The Shift Key.

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Kindle. Quite the worst book by Brunner I've read yet. The set up is horror but many words later we're told it was just a chemical leak. Too many irrelevant characters and vignettes and repetitions. The point, I think, was to hitch a ride with a/the cultural revolution and riff on the perfectibility of the once and future paradisal English village. Pagan hippies to the rescue.

John Brunner: The Long Result.

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Kindle. Continuing with the thin Brunners. This is a chatty noir that is padded with excess and unimaginative detail. The premise is what happens when the (imperial) centre is surpassed by its more grasping progeny. Read the USA versus Britain, with Japan and perhaps China looking benignly on. All of the plot moves are telegraphed too far in advance. He wants psychohistorical determinacy but doesn't have the patience to make it coherent, or vague enough for that not to matter.

Tenet

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At the Majestic Cinema Nambucca Heads, at the one-and-only 16.30 session. 16.50 AUD + 1.00 AUD booking fee, booked in the morning. Theatre 3 is pretty small; I sat two rows from the front, which is about right for that screen. Of course I was so late to this global COVID party that I was the only one there. The short for Wonder Woman 1984 has a possibly self-referential joke where Kirk is again back in the 1980s making anachronistic faux pas (here by taking a trash can to be art). Behold innovation.

The opening scene is an unmotivated spaghetti monster and I can't say that things got any clearer from there. It was therefore a pleasure to take a pause with Martin Donovan (as always). The main draw was Liz Dibecki, who was as solid as usual but is still waiting for a decent role in a good movie. BlacKkKlansman had given me expectations of John David Washington that weren't met here; mostly he's just a jawline in a suit waiting to deliver some lines or a judo throw. Robert Pattinson does a bit better as the tech bro, though he goes out all hair and smug. Kenneth Branagh is mostly squint, like vintage Jack Thompson. I didn't recognise Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Kick-Ass.

The aim was high-concept James Bond, where the good guys perform the heists. Nolan loves destroying planes and dressing everyone up like Bane. Apart from the general tiredness of the tropes, the central flaw is that inversion is ultimately neither here nor there; the plot gets more value out of the time travel, which is handled about as poorly as it generally is. I guess I misunderappreciate Nolan's special effects.

Widely reviewed, as you'd expect for a Christopher Nolan. Jessica Kiang dug it when it opened. Can't say I entirely agree with her opinion about this movie, but her critique of Nolan's output is spot on. Catherine Shoard brackets it with the far superior Team America. Later it was conclusively deemed an epic cinema-killing fiasco.

John Brunner: I Speak for Earth.

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Kindle. Yet another thin Brunner. Here he proposes the choice of a Neil Armstrong type as a substrate for a 2001-ish starchild, framed by a Childhood's End ultimatum. The setup is incredibly verbose; we spend about two-thirds of the word count being told how awesome the constituent intellects are. And ultimately, how good are we. It's a bust.

Paris, Texas

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In two sittings, split at what turned out to be its natural cleavage; the first half is misdirection while the second is some kind of family tree darning. It's arthouse in that the storytelling may be innovative or at least unfamiliar, but you'd have to say the story is entirely pro forma; Wim Wenders directs with a bit more focus than his 1990s efforts. The draw was Harry Dean Stanton in his prime (1980s); he looks like a depressed and starved Sharlto Copley. I hadn't realised he was ever considered leading-man material. Klaus Kinski's daughter Nastassja plays at a wife/mother/fallen woman. I hadn't seen Aurore Clement in anything but Apocalypse Now (Redux); she's still substantial but less convincing here. Overall it's a roadtrip with a side of snoozefest.

Roger Ebert at the time (four stars). Ah, Sam Shepard wrote the thing; that explains the story. Ebert gave it another four stars in 2002. Vincent Canby was less impressed.

John Brunner: Children of the Thunder.

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Kindle. A thin conceit stretched to middling length, again derived from concepts explored by Asimov in Second Foundation, with the bromide that the progenitor of the emotional manipulation sorcery is not sterile. It's quite flabby; the capsule portraits of the children get repeated several times, and there's a lot of needless colour. Conversely he does succeed in recycling the structure of the fat Brunners; the newscasts are more hit than miss about where we are now relative to 1987 (consider BREXIT and increasing nationalism), and he does manage to meld the apparently irrelevant storylines together (somewhat). Add some A Clockwork Orange and he made bank for the year. Perhaps most interesting are his ruminations on how the futureless (aka generation Z) or rump left wing or reality-based community respond to neo-fascism and, well, futurelessness: it's not so different to ANTIFA, which in itself is a consequence of observing that nonviolent stuff'll get you killed. For all that the plot is weak with an unsatisfactory and entirely predictable twist.