Films and TV of the month: September

 

 


Sorcerer (1977).jpg
Sorcerer (1977) (William Friedkin)

The opening 15 minutes confused me, but once Roy Scheider is introduced the movie takes off. The last 2/3 is an edge of your set thriller, and on a technical level there’s some impressive cinematography and stunt work. I have no idea how the bridge scenes were filmed but it looks incredible. The cast consisted of anti-heroes, which may have been one of the reasons it failed at the box office. A misleading title and released at the same time as Stars Wars didn’t do Sorcerer any favors. The electronic score by Tangerine Dream is used sparingly, and adds suspense and danger. Here’s a link to the theme.
Been a few years since I watched The Wages of Fear (1953) so not certain which adaptation I prefer. The 1953 version provides fuller characterization in the South American village, while the 1977 film is more intense and thrilling during the dangerous mountain journey.
Friedkin said in an interview he made the film partly to show ”the exploitation of the Latin American countries by big American corporations like United Crude and the oil companies that were exploiting the workers, when safety conditions meant nothing”
9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

One from the Heart
One from the Heart (1981) (Francis Ford Coppola)
Beautifully realized opening credits. This musical is a technical triumph and you can see a lot of money was spent on the sets. I love the neon colors in Las Vegas and the Tom Waits/Crystal Gayle music is great. The budget and poor performance at the box office led to Francis Ford Coppola filing for bankruptcy. If only as much care had been put into the screenplay. The problem is the characters and story are boring and it’s a struggle to keep an interest. So in the end, I prefer just putting the soundtrack on instead.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

WarGames (1983)
WarGames (1983) (John Badham)
Often listed as one of the best hacker films of all-time. Manages to hold the tension as a thriller. There have been cases of computer nerds breaking into big systems so within the realm of reality. Despite illegal actions, arguably you should thank them for exposing the fragility of the systems. David’s (Matthew Broderick) intentions are innocent and his discovery is accidental in trying to play games so you can’t really say he was attempting to do anyone harm. Although the film, maybe unrealistically, doesn’t hand him a punishment, which Hackers (1995) did in sentencing a character to zero computer access until his 18th birthday and a $45000 fine due to a previous cyber crime as an 11-year-old.
A good movie though. The overall story concept still holds up even though the technology has improved. However I very much doubt the obvious password of Joshua would have been used for such a hugely dangerous program. The film, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terminator, warns against the rise of overconfident computers without a sense of human logic. About the absurdity of war.
9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladyhawke.jpg
Ladyhawke (1985) (Richard Donner)

Fantasy/adventure. I like the idea of the curse and the transformations, which is romantic, but the story isn’t the greatest and easy to guess how will play out. While there are some entertaining sword fights, I found Matthew Broderick’s dialogues and monologues the most memorable aspect of the movie. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer are ok, though I felt both their characters are a bit bland and underwritten. Broderick’s comic relief somewhat saves the film. The synth soundtrack by Alan Parsons is inappropriate for a film set in medieval times.
Quotes: “Every happy moment in my life has come from lying”
“A day without night, and a night without day”
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fletch Lives (1989)
Fletch Lives (1989) (Michael Ritchie)
Fletch disguised as a bug man and the jail scene were the two funniest moments. The television ministry parts with R. Lee Ermey somehow aren’t as amusing as they should have been. The story held my attention yet doesn’t have the laughs and realism of the original. After watching, the journey Fletch goes on from A to B feels contrived. The relationship with the younger woman (Julianne Phillips) could be perceived as inappropriate as he looks about 45-50 while she resembles someone in her 20s. The way they interact felt a bit dated.
There’s a commentary on the Jim and Tammy Bakker scandal which was a big deal at the time, there’s even a direct reference to these televangelists during the coon hunt and the Christian theme park is comparable to the Bakker story.
Favorite quotes: ”Bless you, bless her, bless him, hallelujah”
“You’re right, I’ve been foolishly squandering my salary on food and heat”
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tully
Tully (2018) (Jason Reitman)

Is it a comedy or a drama? I don’t really know and the tonal shifts between sadness and jokes makes it an odd viewing experience. I like director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody but I don’t think this is their best work. The duo took the pregnancy theme from Juno and the feisty Mavis Gary character from Young Adult and meshed the two! The screenplay also addresses marriage and mental health(both Marlo and her son) but these aspects are underdeveloped as the viewer hardly gets to know the male characters.
A weak opening 30 minutes where nothing much happens. Improves when Tully turns up and spices things up a bit. The ending felt very safe though does encourage conversation. Perhaps if I was a mother myself I could relate to these situations. As it is, the film didn’t leave much of an impression and the memorable scenes are somewhat cringeworthy. Well-acted but there’s no reason to see it at the cinema as it’s visually uninteresting. Could be a film you need to watch again to fully appreciate as there is a twist that surprises.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

Quincy (2018)
Quincy (2018) (documentary) (Alan Hicks, Rashida Jones)

For two hours jumps between the past and present. Very superficial. The parts about his music career are watchable but mostly just name dropping without depth. To do his long, distinguished career justice a longer format would have been better. The documentary, or tribute if you will, was dull when following him as an old man as the interviews didn’t reveal much.
Quincy Jones helped Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Oprah, and Will Smith and paved the way for them to become mega stars. We also get to see glimpses of his humanitarian work, building houses in South Africa, and attempt to stop the East Coast and West Coast hip hop war. The documentary completely skipped the Bad album which is one of his most popular as a producer. Not recommended and a missed opportunity. You can basically get the same info from reading his wikipedia page.
3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 


Juliet Naked.jpg
Juliet, Naked (2018) (Jesse Peretz)

An adaptation that is charming yet simplifies the nuances of the superior Nick Hornby novel. Good for a one time watch, especially if you are a music enthusiast. The soundtrack has been praised although I can’t say any of the new songs struck a chord. In fact the only one I remember is Brass in Pocket by The Pretenders which wasn’t sung by Ethan Hawke. There’s a cover of Waterloo Sunset which is key to the story. The soundtrack needs to be heard separately as mostly just snippets during the film. I’ve listened to a few of the tracks on YouTube, not all interesting, but Sunday Never Comes is really good.
Part of the allure of the book (which I reviewed here) was reading about beloved fictional music that was special to a group of fans and unimportant to those who didn’t “get it”. Hawke plays the mysterious singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe while Chris O’Dowd runs a music forum website dedicated to his idol. Rose Byrne is O’Dowd’s girlfriend and puts up with his Crowe obsession. I disliked the epilogue scene which clashes tonally with the actual ending.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

19 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: September

  1. Have you read the book, Ready Player One?
    War Games is featured prominently in the book (there’s all kinds of 80s references throughout) and I’ve been meaning to see it ever since.
    If it’s 9/10 material, that moves it further up the to-see list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @stephen1001: No, haven’t read Ready Player One. Thanks for the info. I’ve considered watching the film version even though I feel Spielberg is past his prime. WarGames and Sorcerer are two great thrillers and my faves this past month!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you liked Sorcerer and WarGames. I can understand your issues with One from the Heart which is a flawed film but I still like it a lot for its visuals, the music, and its cast. At least you gave it a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorcerer is one that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, but, like so many other flicks, I just haven’t gotten to it. I’m glad that you liked it and rate it highly… I’ll do my best to get to it soon. It’s been a couple of years since I last seen War Games, but it’s a really good flick and I tend to give it a watch every couple of years. Usually around the Festive Holidays. I don’t know why, exactly… just habit. I like it a whole lot.

    The Quincy documentary didn’t appeal to me, as I’d read elsewhere that it’s pretty rose tinted. I want something thorough… a proper look at the man. Achievements, flaws. I can’t help but think the Sinatra All or Nothing doc set the bar for what I want from documentaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. @J: If you love thrillers Sorcerer is a must-see. A film cinephiles love but the general public tend to be unaware of.

    Nice tradition you have in rewatching WarGames

    Yep, Sinatra All or Nothing benefited from a longer running time. Quincy (2018) was too safe and as you say rose- tinted. His daughter Rashida Jones co-directed it so she has bias, wanting to protect his legacy.

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  5. For once I haven’t seen any of the films you’ve reviewed this month Chris, even WarGames, but thanks as ever for your take on them. Think I want to seek out Quincy. Sounds interesting for someone like me who blogs about music.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. @Alyson: Quincy (2018) provides a summary of Quincy Jones’ long career, if that is what you are after then it’s ok I guess. But approach with caution as not a probing documentary. Basically a surface-level tribute.

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  7. So many interesting films to check out. Seeing your score for Sorcerer, I need to watch it soon, and I also agree with your assessment of Tully. It previously did not even occur to me, but you pointed out so well that the film is a mix of Juno and Young Adult. It is that essentially, isn’t? So it is true that saying that a director makes one (well, two) movie(s) in his life then breaks it up and makes it again. It is very applicable to Aronofsky too, not just Reitman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Thanks, I hope you check out Sorcerer. It has nothing to do with wizards and magic by the way, completely misleading title!
      Reitman/Cody do try out new things in Tully in regards to motherhood, even though various aspects are a bit familiar if you have watched their previous collaborations.

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  8. I wanna see Tully but it seems like even more bizarre mix of humor and drama than Young Adult – which I loved. I heard Charlize is excellent so that’s enough for me to eventually see it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Sati: To me, the dialogue in Young Adult is funnier.

      Charlize is excellent in Tully and the ending is interesting, I wish the supporting male characters were given more room to breathe. Perhaps needed to be 20 min longer.

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  9. Loved Wargames as a kid, though not seen it since. I do love a good cold war story. Good to see it’s still holding up. I’m very intrigued to go see it again. Have you seen Colossus: The Forbin Project? Fits in nice with your “overconfident computers” analogy 🙂

    I do have a soft spot for Ladyhawke, if only they could get a new score edition. It would help the movie so much.

    Sorcerer has so much depth to it. Death, limbo land, hell. I really liked it. I think I prefer Wages Of Fear, even though I remember the begining being a drag! I watched it with my Dad and it brings back good memories.

    I’m still to see Quincy, love his work. Adore Rashida Jones. I’m looking forward to it. His career is so massive it really needs an epic Ken Burns doc series. Shame if it all has been rushed a bit. Though I’m sure I will enjoy watching the footage. Gotta get my Netflix dues.

    Nice selection of films again this month Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman: Never heard of Colossus: The Forbin Project. Just watched the trailer and looks interesting. Thanks for the rec

      Wages Of Fear I rated highly as well. Yeah the beginning is a bit long but does flesh out the characters and environment so that’s something I guess

      Yep, the Quincy doc is definitely rushed. In my experience, netflix original films are rarely great.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I just recently bought a copy of Ladyhawke even though I’ve never seen it. I will check it out soon enough. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of War Games and that was back in the early to mid 80s. Not sure why I never sat down to watch the whole thing. I suppose I should one of these days.

    Yeah, Fletch Lives is a no.

    Tully is one I plan on seeing soon. Quincy is one I will definitely see soon since I am a fan of his. Yours is the first negative response I’ve read to it. I hope I like it better than that, but I’ll find out in the very near future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wendell: Ladyhawke is alright but I think it’s weaker than Richard Donner’s other 80s films. Matthew Broderick’s comic relief is what elevated the film. Without him it would have been forgettable.

      I didn’t hate Fletch Lives but certainly not as good as the original from 1985.

      To me, a documentary about a legend such as Quincy Jones should be done properly. That netflix tribute in unnuanced and could of been so much better. There are other negative reviews. The Guardian gave it 2/5 stars.

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  11. Hello Chris! Such a shame with Juliet! It was a good book. It could have been an interesting movie too. It is so strange that platonic love you can feel with someone you don’t know! So much to explore but… At least we have one good song. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Analía. Nice to hear from you again. Yeah, some fans get obsessed without knowing the actual person! I guess in this internet age it’s not as easy to maintain the mystery because of the video clips we have access to. I think being a superfan is maybe a need to control something in your life or be an expert on something in a world of chaos. I think Juliet Naked is about how the perspective of the fans can be distorted. I don’t know if it’s good or bad to meet your hero. As it breaks the illusion but can also be healthy to see them as a real individual.
      I was just thumbing through old film magazines this week and an actor (Josh Hartnett) was quoted: “People care about my fame, not me. But that’s fine. I have my own life”. He gets that the artist and person are two different things.

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