peteg's blog - noise - movies

Farmageddon (Shaun the Sheep)

/noise/movies | Link

The latest Aardman Animations animation. It's fun. There's almost no language. This one features nods to just about every scifi classic out there, right down to its cloning of the E.T. plot (near as I can tell given that I don't think I've seen E.T.). There's a great scene where some fake Daleks startle Tom Baker as he exits a TARDIS-y john, and many others. Conversely (unfortunately) the spook robot is little more than a Wall-E clone. I love it that the sheep are such excellent engineers.

Jason Bailey at the New York Times.

The Lighthouse

/noise/movies | Link

Over a couple of nights as it failed to grip. Veteran lighthouse keeper Willem Dafoe gets saddled with a new assistant in the form of Robert Pattinson. The setting is, of course, a bleak island with extreme weather. Black-and-white, square frame, archaic. It has its moments but director/writer Robert Eggers (co-writing with Max Eggers) generally fails to innovate.

Manohla Dargis.

The Two Jakes

/noise/movies | Link

I just discovered that Chinatown had a sequel, directed by Jack Nicholson who also stars. It's a clunky retread from 1990, so much so that I was surprised that it didn't make David Stratton's list of marvellous movies. The actors are uniformly squandered: Harvey Keitel (in one of his more awkward performances), Eli Wallach as a lawyer, Meg Tilly, and so on. Tom Waits! The plot is somewhat amazingly almost identical to that of its predecessor, though someone more invested might observe a distinct emotional range.

Roger Ebert overlooked the clunkiness at the time. Vincent Canby didn't. Peter Travers.

Chinatown

/noise/movies | Link

Probably third time around with this Polanski/Nicholson classic. Water shenanigans in Los Angeles, how very topical. Prompted by Janet Maslin's review of a book on its making. Somehow still rated #150 in the IMDB top-250.

Roger Ebert at the time and in 2000. Vincent Canby was less impressed. Both observe John Huston as a link to the original American noirs of the 1930s.

Richard Jewell

/noise/movies | Link

Eastwood's latest: another in his series of American biopics, this time about the security guard who discovered the Centennial Park bomb at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Given the substantial focus on the FBI I guess it also acts as a bookend to J. Edgar. The cast is uniformly brilliant. Paul Walter Hauser from I, Tonya anchors things in the lead; this story is from the same (Clinton) era. Jon Hamm has the thankless task of playing the lead investigator on the dead-end investigation (reminding me of his G-man in Bad Times at the El Royale). Kathy Bates! She got an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress, of course she did. Olivia Wilde is solid if generically slutty. I enjoyed Sam Rockwell's performance here, lodged somewhere between his W. effort and what I take to be his essential self. I quibble about the poster in his office: I fear large corporations about as much as government, though I concur both are more concerning than terrorism, domestic or foreign. I guess Eastwood implies this by pointing the bone at both the FBI and the media.

A. O. Scott is right that Wilde did her best in a poor role. Perhaps Eastwood is suggesting that the FBI had lost its way by that time? Richard Brody summarises the plot and draws a parallel to the FBI's treatment of Mrs Clinton in 2016.

Il traditore (The Traitor)

/noise/movies | Link

Prompted by A. O. Scott's recent review. It's not exactly The Godfather; more one of those Pablo Escobar hagiographies from a while back. There are some fantastic scenes, such as when the dons are caged up at the rear of a courtroom. I have no idea how Italian justice functions, but it sometimes looks like fun. Scott doesn't seem to mind that Tommaso Buscetta's own motivations went substantially unexplored; if he was really that much into the ladies, how much money did he need?

Motherless Brooklyn

/noise/movies | Link

Ed Norton directs and leads in this revival of 1950s NYC hard boiled detective semi-noir. His usual tics are all on show (for instance "let me tell you something") as well as some new ones, with compensations in Rain Man style. It's too talky with not enough show, and not as twisty as the running time demands while also not making a tonne of sense. Still it's better than the dire IMDB rating and reviews suggest, and there is the odd sweet scene. Alec Baldwin plays a Robert Moses figure who's not going to let the small people get in the way of the big things that need to be done.

A. O. Scott.

Jojo Rabbit

/noise/movies | Link

There's not a lot going on here; three Oscars therefore. The cliches pile up, along the lines of what I was once told: German humour is no laughing matter. Despite this Scarlett does make a semi-decent fist of the real thing. Rockwell plays louche Rockwell. Stephen Merchant as Gestapo: are those hats a nod to the classic Borsalinos of American Jewry? Taika Waititi is perhaps the pick as the imaginary Hitler bestie because at least you know he's on the high wire.

Hollywood can't give up on Nazis, which is unfortunate as they cannot innovate ala Downfall or Look Who's Back. It's just not enough to gesture at current political conditions when superior works like The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui have been around for so long. And yes, all of those are German efforts.

A. O. Scott wasn't impressed.

Gösta

/noise/movies | Link

My recent encounter with an American take on Swedish weird reminded me that Lukas Moodysson had a TV series in 2019. Strangely enough Vilhelm Blomgren is in both.

Very briefly, Blomgren leads here as a twenty-first century Swedish Jesus who moves to Småland for his first job as a child psychologist. His various attachments from Stockholm follow in short order, yielding a generational Tillsammans complete with a refugee in the attic. It's a pile on: instability and guilt rock the perennially free yet clingy boomer generation, while the futureless are also hanging on, immobile, but for reasons occluded by self delusion. All of the women are predatory, all of the men are clearly nuts, and the only thing a man who cannot say no can ultimately say yes to is bonding with a dog.

The sexual politics is clunky, with no advance on those of the late-90s Brilliant Lies (etc). I'm left thinking that Moodysson doesn't have much insight into women.

Overall things are far too jaggy, far too cliched, for Moodysson to take us anywhere but the most predictable places, which is disappointing as he is otherwise often as inventive as David Lynch (sharing musical outros, small town shenanigans, the weird). This viewer's patience was not rewarded by a final episode that makes up for some of the heavy handedness; I wanted Gösta to bend, not break, and the road is just too long. For all that I do enjoy his style.

Back to the Future, Part II, Part III

/noise/movies | Link

Dave reckons my childhood was impoverished by not having seen these movies. Perhaps, but he was dead right that it's now too late to rectify. At times things get a bit Kind Hearts and Coronets with Michael J. Fox playing too many roles. I've never been a fan of any of the actors, nor Robert Zemeckis's American cheesecake films. The first one is rated #37 in the IMDB top-250.

Ebert on the first one (3.5 stars), the the second (3 stars) and the third (2.5 stars).

Love at Large

/noise/movies | Link

#55 on David Stratton's list of marvellous movies. Clearly he's a sucker for hard boiled noir-ish detective movies, so much so that he can endorse this weak B-grade garbage. I was expecting more of detective Tom Berenger as a pivot for quite a few ladies, none of whom impressed me so much. The plot is ancillary and could have quite profitably been omitted, reducing things to a set of late 1980s character studies. Leonard Cohen's Ain't No Cure For Love opens. Not enough is asked of Neil Young.

Roger Ebert shrugged at the time: he suggests a failed parody where Stratton thinks satire. Both agree that the director has (had?) potential. Janet Maslin.

The Gentlemen

/noise/movies | Link

With Dave at The Ritz, 2:20pm, 10 AUD each, four rows from the front of cinema 3, not too many people. We had a coffee at Shorty's beforehand.

Nothing too appealing for this one, apart from it being quite a while since I've seen Matthew McConaughey. It's tired and formulaic: winners have gotta win, pretty much. MY WIFE, isn't that one of Pacino's classic explosions? Hugh Grant was the most fun. Eddie Marsan, unusually, failed in his role. Colin Farrell and cohort are boringly bulletproof.

Afterwards I bumped into Ron nearby. Dave and I had a middling to poor early dinner at Lil' Darlin' and wandered down to a moderately busy Coogee.

Sandra Hall. Later, Manohla Dargis.

Midsommar

/noise/movies | Link

More Florence Pugh completism. Here she is with an American accent. Writer/director Ari Aster attempts a horror riff on Swedish weirdism but lacks conviction and so alloys it with empty American bro culture and narcotics. All the characters are naff stereotypes, the mythos is thin, the plot goes as you know it will. Clearly he's aiming for some Lynchian magic but achieves only a humourless study in obliviousness. It is gratuitously graphic. I was reminded of my recent encounter with a mechanic: of being drip fed useless information that was withheld without much intent over far too much time.

Richard Brody spilt a lot of words on this empty vessel. Manohla Dargis.

Little Women

/noise/movies | Link

Movie club sign-up freebie at the Odeon 5, 12:45pm session, Cinema 1, three rows from the front. I think all their movies were flagged no-free-tickets (NFT) up to today. Quite a few people.

I didn't know what I was getting beyond the costume drama implied by the poster. The draw was Florence Pugh, and of course the Greta Gerwig/Saoirse Ronan combination that worked so well in Lady Bird. Gerwig brilliantly composed her chopped-up overlapping timelines with many effective visual cues, keeping the stories-in-stories moving even as they arrived at the necessary stations of growing up. So many name actors: Chris Cooper as a reserved, bereaved, indulgent grandfather; Tracy Letts as a bemused and not entirely chauvinistic publisher; Timothée Chalamet as a fly playboy; Laura Dern as saintly mother. Meryl Streep ungenerously owns every scene she's in. The story itself, however, is not a patch on what the Koreans are doing, nor Lady Bird.

Reviews are legion. I didn't read them before I went. Universally feted. Dana Stevens; the final scene-within-the-book is entirely an intentional commercial clanger as Joanna Biggs observes. A. O. Scott. Paul Byrnes was not convinced by Emma Watson (and me neither, having no fond memories of Harry Potter to fall back on). All apart from Byrnes quote the opening sentence of the novel/movie. Anthony Lane. Flo has apparently arrived.

In Cold Blood

/noise/movies | Link

An adaptation of Truman Capote's famous reportage. Natural born killers. Fascinated by psychology and therefore entirely of its era: the logic of leaving no witnesses strikes me as sound, or putting it another way, consonant with humans not being too bothered about things beyond their immediate vicinity (cf poverty, climate change, general insanity, and so forth). Or compare it to the recent wars and mass murders with motivations even more confused. The black and white spaghetti chronology left me cold. I couldn't help but think of it as the view from NYC.

Roger Ebert called out the artiness in 1968. He had another (more reactionary) go in 2002.

Gosford Park

/noise/movies | Link

More Robert Altman completism, prompted by Knives Out. The cast here is even larger, and there are far too many characters to get to grips with. Fortunately it doesn't matter too much as the sweep of English Toff Country Life circa 1932 is very familiar and they are, to a woman, cliched grotesques. Kelly Macdonald is the pivot, an ingenue. Stephen Fry is a hammy police inspector. I actually enjoyed Clive Owen, from the Isleworth orphanage, and Richard E. Grant. Emily Watson is fine too, but isn't taxed. I somehow remembered Tom Hollander as Guy Burgess in Cambridge Spies. There are heaps more. The gentry left me uniformly cold. For the sake of having a plot it's a murder mystery.

I wonder if anyone's tried making an upstairs/downstairs thing where the actors have roles in each.

Roger Ebert at the time. Also Stephen Holden.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

/noise/movies | Link

Paying the compulsory mouse tax with Dave at the Odeon 5, 8:30pm, three rows from the front. A few people but not packed. I signed up to their movie club; unlike The Ritz I could only get one cheap ticket. All up $42.93. No shorts.

As expected it's a dog. Oscar Isaac digs deep but fails to improve on Bill Pullman's President from Independence Day. Daisy Ridley, winsome once more, and indeed of extraordinary heritage though her parents are elided. Adam Driver enjoys himself. Keri Russell. Richard E. Grant. Ian McDiarmid. Shirley Henderson somehow as "Babu Frik", and was that Tilda Swinton? All entirely squandered. There's some unfunny Thor: Ragnarok and too much lukewarm necrotic nostalgia, which is approximately what we're told to expect from JJ Abrams: too much incoherence, too many dangling threads, too much box ticking.

Richard Brody. Tim Kreider. A. O. Scott. And many others.

Burning

/noise/movies | Link

Korean. Impressionistic. "Based on the short story by Haruki Murakami" or maybe just American Psycho. All insinuation. Some beautiful cinematography. I don't know this director (Lee Chang-dong). Steven Yeun is Gangnam style. Lead Ah-in Yoo is suitably inscrutable.

Joint Security Area

/noise/movies | Link

More Park Chan-wook completism prompted by Ben Kenigsberg; can there ever be enough? In two sittings. This is one of his early efforts (from 2000). Song Kang-ho plays a North Korean veteran soldier who saves and befriends a South Korean cadet who strays across the DMZ/"Joint Security Area" monitored by the Swiss and other neutral nations, and also eventually his mate. Things go as you'd expect: the early grim ambience yields to some human promise before the violence goes all corporate and Fincher. I didn't try to follow the forensic accounting of bullets.

A. O. Scott in 2005, after Oldboy.

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer

/noise/movies | Link

A Peter Cook jag from The Princess Bride. A cynical take on politics that hasn't aged well despite the fabulous cast, perhaps its satirical edge wore off well before 1983. John Cleese co-wrote this with Cook but is too timid in his role. Harold Pinter plays the canonical reassuredly smarmy 1970s TV anchor. Denholm Elliott is supposed to be Cook's foil, running a competing opinion canvassing firm, but is far too detached. Graham Chapman's sexually deviant politician is a cliché. Ronnie Corbett's cameo doesn't really work. It lacks the courage to go all-in on the sexploitation.