Films and TV of the month: November




Terminator Dark Fate.jpg
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) (Tim Miller)

The 6th film in the series and a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Some entertaining action sequences, a couple of funny moments, and good to have Linda Hamilton back. But not enough innovation in the storytelling which is too familiar.
Half in the Bag in their video review compared Sarah Connor to Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween film series, both are “survival nuts”, criticizing Dark Fate for not providing a fuller version of Sarah’s and John Connor’s life after T2.
The diversity in the casting felt fresh and is watchable for the action, albeit not a necessary sequel. In the end, reeks of a commercial project. Better than T3 which confusingly has been erased from the time line. Not at the level of originality of T1 and T2.








The Souvenir (2019) (Joanna Hogg)
Won the Grand Jury Prize for best international drama at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
A semi-autobiographical story about the director as a young artist in the form of film student Julie.
Probably will be best remembered for the performance of Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne. The two Swinton’s play mother and daughter on screen.
Read full review







Dragged Across Concrete
Dragged Across Concrete (2018) (S. Craig Zahler)

The violence is more restrained and believable compared to the batshit crazy stuff in S. Craig Zahler’s previous work (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99). A slow building story that is simultaneously a suspenseful thriller. I liked how we see events in real time though that could also put off impatient viewers. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are convincing as a duo. Interesting to see Mel Gibson in a buddy cop movie again. Darker than Lethal Weapon.









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Sorry We Missed You (2019) (Ken Loach)

Thanks to Nostra at My Film Views for the recommendation. I watched an early preview screening.
family drama that reveals the relentless grind and long working hours of a delivery man and his wife who is an in-home carer, which results in stress and neglecting family matters at home. Reminds you others have it worse than you. Easy to empathise with their problems and with characters I’ll remember. Alarmingly, similar situations are going on every day. Very good performances by the fairly unknown cast.









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Personal Shopper (2016) (Olivier Assayas)

The opening 15 min is a total bore. If you get past that test, the story gets better.
Kristin Stewarts’ character seems lonely, working alone as a personal shopper, she talks to people she doesn’t know on her travels. At the same time, she is also dealing with her brother’s death who was a medium as she is.
The mysterious text exchange was captivating though I couldn’t see why it was needed. Unfocused, slight story, although I was curious to see how it all panned out.









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Inside Moves (1980) (Richard Donner)

We can thank Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and Midnight Cowboy (1969) for Hollywood financing a string of buddy movies, and this one, which is nowhere near as famous as those 60s classics, warms the heart with its compassionate depiction of a group of outsiders who go about their daily lives and frequent a local bar in San Francisco. Based on the book of the same name by Todd Walton, there’s plenty of character development and even though the film is close to two hours, I could easily have spent longer hanging out with them. Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) has named Inside Moves among his 2-3 favorites of the films he directed. He knows how to display friendship on screen so you care. John Savage, David Morse, and Diana Scarwid are all brilliant and given room to shape their performances. A character based story and different to how films are made today. There’s a focus on basketball but you don’t need to be interested in the sport to enjoy the movie. About guy friendships, relationships, physical limitations, and finding your purpose. Inside Moves flopped due to poor marketing and actors who weren’t bankable yet still managed an Academy Award nomination for Scarwid.









Stir Crazy (1980)
Stir Crazy (1980) (Sidney Poitier)

Thanks to Wolfman for the recommendation. According to the dictionary stir-crazy means “psychologically disturbed, especially as a result of being confined or imprisoned”.
Wacky, almost cartoonish comedy. I laughed more during the slapstick humor in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) but Stir Crazy has a better second half and worth seeing for Richard Pryor’s and Gene Wilder’s chemistry.
The taxi driver-customer payment argument was hilarious, especially when Gene Wilder steps in to help. So too was the “tough guy” walk on the way to the prisoners. Wilder’s optimism yet naivety as Skip Donahue is infectious. There are aspects that don’t make sense such as the behaviour of the prison guards in the last act, and putting money on Skip to win despite his limited training. Sometimes the sight gags take over the plot but very charming and entertaining.











a christmas carol (1984)
A Christmas Carol (1984) (Clive Donner)
Charles Dickens’ Christmas ghost tale is brought to life in this better-than-average TV-movie with good special effects, believable sets, and a memorable performance by always reliable George C. Scott as Scrooge. British stage and screen actors round out the other key characters. Some parts felt sentimental but that was already in the story. From what I’ve heard, a very faithful adaptation. Has a great message about rich and poor. Dickens was the Ken Loach of his time.











Marianne & Leonard Words of Love
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (documentary) (2019) (Nick Broomfield)

Combining talking heads with archive footage, depicts the muse-artist relationship between Marianne Ihlen and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Put together by their old friend Nick Broomfield. Very honest, on one hand Cohen cared deeply for Marianne but on the other hand his inability to let her go caused her suffering. Reveals the dark side of the era of free love. Having not read any of his biographies, the documentary changed my perception of Cohen. I wasn’t aware he was a womanizer and drug user but with women throwing themselves at him and the climate he was living, I guess he couldn’t resist. Interesting that people were “cursed” by the idyllic Greek island Hydra, I wondered if Axel and the Johnston family under different circumstances would have avoided their fate. The last half of the film focuses mostly on Cohen’s career as a singer. Marianne’s death bed scene at the end is easily the most powerful moment and brought me to tears. Some reviews complained the documentary is sordid and distasteful. The two people in the title are deceased and unable to endorse the contents. To me, frames Marianne as the victim and Cohen as the charming artist with commitment issues, seeking new experiences. Unfortunately Marianne’s side of the story is too sketchy. The mother-son part wasn’t explored enough to really get the full picture.












Memory The Origins of Alien
Memory: The Origins of Alien (documentary) (2019) (Alexandre O. Philippe)

If you watch the documentary you will want to rewatch Alien. At times does look like a bunch of DVD featurettes stretched out to feature film length but I honestly was fine with that.
A number of influences are explored such as Francis Bacon’s painting Fury (1944) for the design of the creature. Alien (1979) itself is analysed; the realism, a corporation exploiting blue color workers, the class aspect on board, the use of the words Nostromo(space ship) and Narcissus(shuttle craft), book titles by Joseph Conrad who wrote Heart of Darkness about the fear of the unknown. The subtext of the monster with a theory that the male rape is the “retribution of the repressed feminine” , the fear of serial killers as a threat you can’t reason with. The ending of the film is interpreted as a transformation of Ripley as a way to avoid the self-destruction of our culture.
There are interviews with the cast, experts, and a timeline of the making of the film. Particular attention is given to the memorable chestburster sequence. HR Giger’s (who died in 2014) concept drawings inspired the Alien visuals. Giger previously worked on Jodorowsky‘s unfinished Dune film.
Apparently the co-writer of Alien Dan O’Bannon borrowed the idea for the chestburster from the comic Seeds of Jupiter (1951). A pity the documentary took so long to make as O’Bannon died in 2009 and it’s his wife telling his side of the story. O’Bannon’s notes and story ideas are in his wife’s storage boxes. A streaming service should buy those ideas and do something with them as the man was a visionary.
Similar to the Kubrick documentary Filmworker (2017), Memory: The Origins of Alien champions the lesser known makers of the first Alien movie rather than just Ridley Scott.
An interesting watch even if it is scattershot, made after several key players have died. Sigourney Weaver is sadly not interviewed, while the academic theories are merely presented and not contested by the surviving creative forces. A longer documentary could have gone deeper. But a part 2 (or other Alien supplements) could solve these weaknesses.









Life After Flash.jpg
Life After Flash (documentary) (2017) (Lisa Downs)

Kick-starter funded documentary about Sam J. Jones and the cult movie Flash Gordon (1980) that made him famous.
Jones has a Hollywood story worth telling, we get to hear about the ups and downs, professionally and personally. His friend thinks Jones went into acting as an escape from a difficult past.
There are also interview clips with the cast and superfans remembering Flash Gordon. Peter Wyngarde (Klytus) not wanting to die was an amusing anecdote. The care put into the costumes was amazing. Brian May of Queen talks about the making of the soundtrack and plays snippets on the piano. Interesting that the “opening crawl” from Star Wars clearly was inspired by the 1930s Flash Gordon.
The documentary is no masterpiece, and there are plenty of self-congratulatory remarks, yet as a biased fan of the 1980 film it was satisfying. You can currently watch Life After Flash (2017) on Vimeo or Amazon prime.







What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


20 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: November

  1. I’ve only seen Personal Shopper, which was fine. I forgot about The Souvenir completely. Sorry We Missed you sounds interesting, I’ll have to check that out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do wanna see Terminator but knowing it wouldn’t be amazing I didn’t wanna pay for 4 tickets for the family to go see it. Will be waiting for cable, Netflix or whoever shows it first.
    I’d been (pun coming) dragging my feet on Dragged Across Concrete as sometimes the brain can’t handle too much batshit crazy violence before going straight to bed. Good to hear it’s more restrained. You’ve given me a good nudge to get on with it.
    No way Chris I totally missed Inside Moves. Added to the must see soon list. Can’t quite understand how I missed that one!!
    Haha good to see you got to Stir Crazy. As you probably remember me saying that I’ve watch it insanely way too many times. The film of my teens. Just thinking about it makes my smile giant. 🙂 Thanks for the link.
    Wow you getting in the festive spirit early! George C Scott certainly makes a great Scrooge.
    I only just picked up a cheap DVD boxset of Nick Broomfield docs. A few really early ones I haven’t seen before. Didn’t know about his new one.
    NEED to see the Flash doc! Never realised it actually got made in the end. Nice one.
    I got the impression the Memory: The Origins of Alien doc isn’t an official doc or at least something looked off with it when I watched the trailer early this year.
    It’s fun to see It! The Terror From Beyond also inspired Dan O’Bannon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman:
      T6: not the worst Terminator film. I wouldn’t call it essential viewing though.

      Dragged Across Concrete: best to go in knowing very little. Some sporadic violence but to me didn’t overwhelm the story. I’d recommend two sittings as it’s almost 3 hours(!)

      Inside Moves didn’t make an impact at the box office and has no big stars, I think that’s why most people missed it. It’s a real shame for such a good movie. Very happy I found it!

      Stir Crazy I would be up for rewatching. Pryor and Wilder are certainly likeable as a pairing.

      Haven’t watched any of the other Nick Broomfield docs although I have heard of a few of them!

      I think you’ll enjoyLife After Flash. For fans of Flash Gordon (1980), as I know you are, it’s unavoidable.

      I couldn’t tell you if Memory: The Origins of Alien is an official Alien doc. I found it interesting even if the interpretations are not facts. Especially worth checking out if you are fascinated by the “chest burster” scene which is talked about in detail. Nice to see Dan O’Bannon getting some love. I forget if It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) is referenced in the doc or not. Thanks for the link

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only seen Stir Crazy… quite a while ago, mind, but I’d say I like that one a lot.

    Ken Loach makes incredibly powerful movies, which start and fuel conversations. This one is on my list.

    I’m gonna wait till Terminator hits the streaming services before I delve into that one. A pal went to see it and you guys appear to have a similar opinion on it.

    I’ll also add Dragged Across Concrete to my list, cause I wasn’t aware of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @J: There aren’t many good comedies like Stir Crazy (1980) anymore with an innocent, slapstick approach to humor. I find today’s comedy films tend to be too vulgar or too sophisticated.

      Ken Loach’s latest two films are knockouts and shine a light on important, topical issues. Like a fine wine, he gets better with age!

      Dragged Across Concrete is a long one. I was never bored. More serious than Lethal Weapon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Personal Shopper looks like intriguing movie but I never gave it a shot, looks like something that is very slow and could probably make a good short movie. It’s a problem with a lot of indie films where they stretch one idea to feature length

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @sati: Personal Shopper is intriguing and worth a look if you’re interested in a loner character on screen, but the story is a bit of a mess and never quite knows what it wants to be. Sort of a sequel to Clouds of Sils Maria (2015)(which I prefer) where Stewart also plays an assistant to a celebrity. Plus, I find her cute which is another reason for watching lol.


  5. I am now really interested to watch Marianne & Leonard. I am always curious to explore aspects of Cohen’s life. I agree with your rating on Personnel Shopper, too. Stylishly-presented, but the film has no real vision or convincing point to put across. I generally like something bizarre, but that was simply random, boring and…silly. The script is actually something that may have been cooked up a film student making their first entry into something Lynchian and unusual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Yes, the Personal Shopper script was a bit random and did a poor job of getting me invested from the start. But I liked that the film at least tried to be different and I was intrigued by the mystery elements even if didn’t come together into a satisfying whole and was weaker after the fact. Some parts were pretentious and slow paced while other scenes were like a thriller which was odd.

      I hope you like Marianne & Leonard, not a perfect documentary by leaving stuff out, and may be common knowledge to those who have read his biography. As a fan of his music I found it interesting to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really like Savage and it’s good to see him in good projects. I’ll check out both those I mentioned. On your doc takes note, I watched ‘Becoming Bond’. Well worth a watch. Plus I have a few docs ready to go. I think you’ll be interested. Later Chris.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Haven’t seen nearly enough of these – Really intrigued by Marianne and Leonard though. Only found out about the real Marianne after he died and I did some research for a tribute post. Love the song of the same name.

    Liked by 1 person

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