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 (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.
Sorry We Missed You (2019) (Ken Loach)
Thanks to Nostra at My Film Views for the recommendation. I watched an early preview screening.
A 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.
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.
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) (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) (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 (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 (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 (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