Films and TV of the month: December







Apocalypse Now (1979/2019) (Francis Ford Coppola)
Final Cut screening. The insanity of war, in more ways than one. I’m not giving a 10/10 because, while the picture restoration was stunning, and the enhanced audio impeccable, the sound was turned up uncomfortably loud and my ears were ringing afterwards.
I haven’t watched the original in years so couldn’t pinpoint what the differences are to this new cut. I had forgotten how imposing the score is. Check it out if you can but remember to bring ear plugs. An immersive experience where I felt I was in the helicopter, on the beach, and floating down the river with them. An audio/visual extravaganza.







Marriage Story (2019) (Noah Baumbach)
There’s no denying the dialogue is well written and shows the complexity of a relationship and emotional effect a break-up has on a family. Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern deliver top-tier performances. Divorce and custody battles I have no personal experience with though many have to go through it. The most original sequence is the opening when we get to know the quirks of the two leads. The battle between Nora and Jay in the court and the escalating argument between Nicole and Charlie at home back-to-back are both very well acted scenes even if feel a bit Oscar baity. Nora’s speech in defense of women is powerful. You can google Alan Alda’s half-finished joke as he revealed the rest in a Q and A. A good watch and I loved how fully fleshed out these main characters are but I don’t see myself remembering this one in a few months. To me a film you are invested in while it lasts and could provoke a conversation afterwards. You step into the life of two strangers during a very difficult time. As others have said, the two stars make it hard to take sides. But siding is not really the point as the family want each other to be happy. There’s a lot of dialogue and details so you may find Marriage Story to be a bit gruelling in one sitting. Because of the detail would be easy to rewatch. It’s Noah Baumbach’s most mature film though I personally prefer his earlier work Frances Ha (2013), a lighter film which still had plenty of humanity and insight.






Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) (J.J. Abrams)
Brief non-spoiler review. Rotten Tomatoes is right, the movie lacks imagination. With so many stories that they could have told, JJ Abrams frustratingly took the safe option, and while it’s watchable and there are a couple of secrets revealed, it rarely rises above average and character development is almost zero for the majority of the cast. Still, the comic relief makes it at least entertaining and I especially enjoyed C3PO’s arc. However much of the story feels like a rushed fan service checklist, a no risk blockbuster in response to the fan backlash over Rian Johnson’s divisive Last Jedi. Too many unanswered questions in a concluding film.









Parasite (2019) (Bong Joon-ho)
Winner of the 2019 Palme D’or at Cannes. Best to go in blind as the film can be spoiled by reviews. An extremely well told story about class aspirationalism, with drama, black comedy, and surprises. There are some stereotypical, two-dimensional, simplistic depictions of class. We don’t know their ambitions. Money can help you lead a good life but it’s not the only important thing. Not all rich people are happy and not every poor person is unhappy. The film does show love crosses all boundaries, the ugly truth of loan sharks, and Mr. Park’s patronizing treatment of servants as second rate people with a “poor man’s smell”. But does the film tell me anything new? No. Still, Parasite is a compelling yarn, humanizing South Korean inequality. Barely believable, but just about. I’m not sure if the message is ironic about the American dream, in that the characters think money will save them but maybe they were ok to begin with. The vulture review asked “Who are the real parasites? The poor who attach themselves to the rich or the rich who suck the marrow of the poor?”
Bong Joon-ho seems to cynically believe the divide between the classes is never going away.








The Art of Self-Defense (2019) (Riley Stearns)
Has been described as “Karate Kid for adults”. A loner accountant (Jesse Eisenberg in a typical role for him) becomes attached to a karate school. Sort of a companion film to The Double (2013), also with Eisenberg. The most entertaining moments are when Casey gets in touch with his macho side and the story satirizes masculinity. Gripping, mixing violence with deadpan comedy. Although the ending was too heavy-handed and preachy. The best thing about it is the unpredictableness, I didn’t know what would happen next. Visually the movie is well done, with the use of camera angles, colors, etc. I liked the original song in the end credits, Can You Hear Me Now? by Donald McMichael.









Toy Story 4 (2019) (Josh Cooley)
Perhaps I’m becoming older and slower or films are becoming faster and harder to keep up with. Toy Story 4 moves at a frantic pace and if you blink you miss things. Very cute and a welcome return to that universe. Of the new characters, Keanu Reeves is funny as Duke Caboom. The movie has a good message which I won’t go into as it’s spoilery. You could argue the sequel is designed to sell merchandise yet that didn’t go through my mind for one second while watching. The animation looks great and hard to hate a film as sweet as this.






Kraftidioten (aka In Order of Disappearance) (2014) (Hans Petter Moland)
The Liam Neeson thriller Cold Pursuit (2019) is a remake by the same director. Norwegian black comedy action film. The humor was very dark, making fun of suicide and cancer, laughing together with a person you just beat up, bodies thrown over a cliff. Partly spoofs “Nordic Noir” and the criminal underworld although a drawback is the story relies on gangster clichés. There are Pulp Fiction-like discussions by the criminals, about the welfare state in colder countries compared to warmer climates, and the luxury prisons. These conversations were the best thing about it and sadly were in short supply. The jokes would work better with a packed audience and for me was simply too bleak to be funny. Overall, not as original as genre highlights Headhunters, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Insomnia.






Solaris (2002) (Steven Soderbergh)
The pacing is better than the 1972 film but Soderbergh’s script is too explanatory and dumbed down. I prefer Tarkovsky’s ambiguous adaptation which is more beautiful and multifaceted.








Kollektivet (aka The Commune) (2016) (Thomas Vinterberg)
Vinterberg has made some great films and some lesser films. The Commune (2016) falls into the latter category. There’s just not enough characterization or reason to care. A clichéd, by-the-numbers look at Denmark in the 1970s. Trine Dyrholm’s performance is terrific and elevates the stronger second half. Together (Tillsammans) (2000) is a better film about a 70s commune.









Coco (2017) (Lee Unkrich)
Despite the focus on the deceased and Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, a heartwarming, fun, and visually dazzling animation. A story about how achievement is not without its stumbling blocks.










Elf (2003) (Jon Favreau)
A sweet and imaginative Christmas movie which I could imagine rewatching. I’m not a huge fan of Will Ferrell yet he’s funny as the Elf man-child. The only issue I had was the age difference between him and Zooey Deschanel.








Kindergarten Cop (1990) (Ivan Reitman)
Watched as it’s leaving Netflix. A Schwarzenegger comedy where the actor subverts his action stereotype by taking on a job as a kindergarten teacher. Good to watch as harmless escapism. The kids have some funny lines when they talk about who is your daddy and what does he do, and when Dominic says everyone he knows is better than Kimble.
There is also ridiculous stuff like the jarring tonal shifts between violent cop thriller and kid’s movie, ferret bite, headteacher not aware a potentially dangerous criminal is heading to the school, and not firing Kimble when he beats someone up in front of the children.








What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: November




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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.











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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.











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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.









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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


Films and TV of the month: October




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Jaws (1975) (Steven Spielberg)

Rewatch. Action horror thriller by Spielberg at his peak with groundbreaking camerawork. John Williams’ iconic soundtrack enhances the suspense. There are reviewers who complain the shark looks fake (The thing kept malfunctioning and forced Spielberg to find creative ways to represent the monstrous fish) but I didn’t doubt the great white was a threat for a second and disagree with the naysayers. Apparently the behavior and appearance is not accurate although I’m not a shark expert so didn’t bother me.
Arguably the story could be a commentary on the greed of humans and the instinctive hunger of animals, I’m not sure. My favorite character is Quint (Robert Shaw) who plays an alcoholic obssessed shark hunter war veteran who more than likely is suffering a form of PTSD. Roy Scheider is also excellent as the local police chief who has his hands full during the beach season. Besides the action, my favorite scene was the “You Got City Hands Mr Hooper.” quarrel.






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The Dark Crystal (1982) (Jim Henson & Frank Oz)

Puppet-animated dark fantasy adventure film. The puppets are believable as living, breathing creatures, and I liked the detail and beauty of the art direction and practical sets. The vulture-like Skeksis are effective villains though the noises they made got on my nerves. The draining of the essence scenes and giant spiders were chilling for a kid’s movie. While a very impressive technical feat, the main characters lacked the personality of Jim Henson’s Muppets. If you love set design this is a must-see but don’t go in with high expectations for the story which is quite basic. I haven’t seen the new 10-episode Netflix reboot The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)







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All Good Things (2010) (Andrew Jarecki)

Rewatch. True crime mystery. I don’t understand the hate, the critics complained the movie is “clichéd and frustratingly ambiguous” but how can a true story be wrong?! Probably my favorite Frank Langella performance, the way he coldly delivers the lines with his deep voice just gets to me. Kirsten Dunst’s character is kind and beautiful while Ryan Gosling plays a man haunted by his past. I was on the edge of my seat. Better than its reputation and with a bigger scope than simply a thrill ride, dealing with marriage, fathers and sons, compromises and dreams, and what is most important to us. Also directed by Jarecki, The Jinx (2015 miniseries) took another go at telling the story in a longer format, including interviews with Robert Durst.








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Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017) (S. Craig Zahler)

An 8/10  prison movie up until the last act. The violence was off-putting in the last 30 minutes, and that brings my score down. A macho film if ever there was one and just too dark to love. The story was quite slow yet compelling and with plenty of tension. I liked the one-liners and Vince Vaughn as anti-hero Bradley Thomas was great, different to his comedic roles. I had read the director’s horror western Bone Tomahawk (2015) contains batshit crazy violence so I guess that is the director’s trademark. I agree with letterboxd reviewer MajorMajor22 that it’s an “assured but tonally bizarre exploitation flick”









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The Princ
ess Bride (1987) (Rob Reiner)
Rewatch. Charming, incredibly quotable, and with a great sense of humor, almost a perfect movie. The mediocre end credits song (the instrumental main theme is superior) and the princess not recognizing her boyfriend behind the mask are the only weaknesses I noticed.








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Look Who’s Talking (1989) (Amy Heckerling)
From the writer of Clueless (1995) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Better than its 57% Rotten Tomatoe score. The “talking baby” protagonist is fun, voiced by Bruce Willis, Travolta dancing with Mikey is a sweet moment. Probably more innocent times, today, I don’t know if a mother (Kirstie Alley) would allow a NY taxi driver (John Travolta) she hardly knows to walk into her apartment. The movie has enough charm to outweigh the contrived elements. About a mother looking for a proper father for her child, the visions of her future are pretty funny. If you are a parent, a light-hearted comedy to check out.









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Joker (2019) (Todd Phillips)

Joaquin Phoenix manages to put a fresh spin on the joker with his mannerisms and laughing at inappropriate moments, and the script does have some arresting quotes, even if the victim aspect feels a bit clichéd and manipulative, and the supporting cast is underdeveloped. Phoenix’s Joker differs from Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson with more innocence, pain, and humanity, and his performance deserves a higher rating than the film itself.









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Dolemite Is My Name (2019) (Craig Brewer)

Nice to see Eddie Murphy making a comeback and his performance is excellent, even if the constant foul language and vulgarity was a stumbling block. The soundtrack provided 70s funk discoveries such as Thank You by Sly & The Family Stone, Funky Stuff by Kool & The Gang, and Slippery When Wet by Commodores. Also features original music and songs/comedy routines performed by the cast.
While it isn’t a must to be familiar with comedy albums and Dolemite (1975), I suspect my enjoyment would have been higher if I had nostalgia for those. The funniest scene was when the group are reading aloud the reviews. The “permission from your warden”, ”buy your own food”, and “sex scene” were amusing too. The second half was funnier. I liked the friendship between Lady Reed and Rudy.










What do you think? As always, comments are welcome




Films and TV of the month: September



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It (2017)
(Andy Muschietti)
More violent and profanity-filled compared to the 1990 TV mini-series. Bill Skarsgård is good although I find Tim Curry’s performance creepier. Surprisingly and maybe unintentionally, the bully with the mullet, Beverly’s dad, and the hypochondriac boy’s mum are scarier than Pennywise. In fact, the clown was only scary the first time I saw him in the iconic scene with the boy in the yellow rain coat. After that, it’s just more of the same from Pennywise. The kids were, like the mini-series, believable as friends. The story is effective enough that could have been a coming of age drama without any supernatural elements.







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It Chapter Two (2019)
(Andy Muschietti)
Chapter 2 (in cinemas now) goes for a comedic horror approach and isn’t as scary as the 2017 film. Tonally a bit all over the place. I was never bored during the almost 3 hour running time, but lacked the sustained charm and cohesion of chapter 1. The story works better with children going on the adventure, it feels implausible (in both the 1990 mini-series and the 2019 film) that grown-ups are doing these things. The aspect that the group’s memories have faded since leaving town is interesting but not explored enough. The opening sequence is quite horrific and (as another reviewer wrote) actually has you hoping Pennywise will show up and deal with the situation.
An improvement on part 2 of the mini-series in terms of performances. But the only scare (aside from the aforementioned first scene) for me was when the girl goes under the seating during the baseball game, and she was not even an important character, and neither were those people in the opening. Stops being frightening when you know what to expect around the corner. My favorite moment had nothing to do with the plot when the camera zooms into a jigsaw puzzle. I imagine Stephen King’s novel left more mystery to the imagination as CGI monsters have little to no effect on me. I wish some of these special effects had been left on the cutting room floor, and instead the filmmakers had given a higher priority to character interactions. There’s an obvious cameo in the used goods shop while Brandon Crane from the 1990 mini-series makes a brief appearance at a company meeting, and Peter Bogdanovich plays a director on a film set. To sum up, entertaining and well paced for such a long movie, and with a few emotional moments, but unfortunately the scares are lacking.








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Despicable Me (2010) 

Should have watched it sooner. Funny, sweet, and imaginative. Suitable for all ages and with memorable characters. The songs don’t overpower the entertaining story though you have to suspend your disbelief at times, as the rocket building, for instance, was unrealistic. The scene with the puppet book may make you cry. Has since been turned into a trilogy, plus a spin-off movie involving the minions.








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In Fabric (2018) (Peter Strickland)

Recommended by dbmoviesblog. A visually-driven UK horror about a red dress, and similar to the director’s neo-giallo Berberian Sound Studio (2012) it looks and sounds like was made in the 1970s. I was into the atmosphere and dream-like strangeness. The female sales assistant in the clothing store speaks in a seductive language that fascinated and the story has a way of putting someone under a spell.
The film is in two distinct halves, and bizarrely funny moments are sprinkled throughout. In the first half, a single mother lives with her son who brings a new girlfriend home, while later on a washing machine repair man got more than he bargained for.
My rating is slightly brought down by Strickland’s inability to resist repeating things such as the same hilarious joke 3-4 times in the space of 30 minutes.
Overall, a bit too much repetition, but I loved being in this world, and loved that Strickland withholds information and doesn’t force-feed you the answers. Definitely a movie to watch when it’s dark outside.
Mark Kermode described In Fabric as a “consumerist satire”, comparing it to TV-movie I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990) which is based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1937 novella of the same name.









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The Best Offer (2013) (Giuseppe Tornatore)

Won several awards in its native Italy. By the director of Cinema Paradiso (1988). Beautiful score by Morricone and impressive set designs. The characters and Hitchcockian mystery were compelling. Geoffrey Rush is good as the art auctioneer even if the age gap between him and the woman was uncomfortable. The twist is clever but makes me like the story less. The anxiety/phobia theme was handled well though kind of got brushed aside by the time we reach the finale. While has been accused for being predictable, I didn’t have that experience at all.








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See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
(Arthur Hiller)
Finally a comedy that doesn’t just try to be funny but actually is funny, particularly during the first hour. It helps you get to care about them. The last third is not as effective but I want to watch the duos other comedies.








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Booksmart (2019) (Olivia Wilde)
The movie has nothing to do with books. In fact it’s about freeing yourself from bookish things. A buzzed about coming of age comedy but it’s a bit overhyped. The two leads have good chemistry and it’s progressive for the LGBT aspect but I didn’t find it funny aside from the panda joke. They were annoying to listen to for an entire movie. Of the supporting characters, many were underwritten, the most interesting of them was the rich outsider guy with the flashy car.
The soundtrack is sporadically effective, especially Oh Baby by LCD Soundsystem when she is walking home from the party, the cover of Unchained Melody by Lykke Li during a sad moment, and the karaoke scene with Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know.








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Ser du månen, Daniel (2019) (Niels Arden Oplev)

By the director of the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). Impactful story of the kidnapping of a Danish photographer by terrorists in Syria. Based on a true story, so you can’t really knock it for being predictable. One of those movies where you think thank god my family is safe and our problems are trivial compared to the horrors going on in other places in the world. Told as a thriller so never dull, yet a painful ordeal and made me feel worse off than before. So I can’t recommend unless you are particularly interested in terrorism. Asks the question if handing over ransom money is an option as you are funding the terrorism, and if the Danish state ought to change its firm policy regarding paying ransoms. There were definitely tears among the audience.








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Queen: Days of Our Lives (2011) (documentary)
(Matt O’Casey)
By the numbers documentary covering Queen’s career and hits. Watchable but didn’t tell me much new. I didn’t know Death on Two Legs, the opener on A Night at the Opera, is about them being screwed over financially by the record company.








Evelyn (2018) (documentary) (Orlando von Einsiedel) (Netflix)

By Oscar-nominated filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga, The White Helmets). A brave and personal documentary with the director and his family opening up about a suicide of a loved one. A memoir of who Evelyn was, family and friend dynamics, and what led him to take his life. Very sad, and therapeutic for them to go on this walk in the UK together, however also rips up in old wounds. If you have been in a similar situation could help you deal with the healing. I haven’t experienced these emotions, and found the film slow and only occasionally involving, such as the ice cream van scene, the black friend breaking down, and the moving poem. The family/friends cared about Evelyn deeply in the way we all want to be loved and I see it as an anti-suicide film that shows the years of hurt and uncertainty that are inflicted on those left behind. Yet you could question the ethics of sharing Evelyn’s personal information such as reading his suicide note aloud as the guy is not here to approve the content. An important film and mostly avoids becoming esoteric but failed to hold my full attention and the substance was too clichéd. Didn’t reveal enough about Evelyn to really make me invested in his story, only hinting at who he was. A lot of crying by the relatives.











What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: August



The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) (Robert Ellis Miller)

Watched with a friend and we both agreed Alan Arkin was amazing as the deaf-mute John Singer. I’m glad Arkin was at least nominated for an Academy Award for lead actor. Evident these were more innocent times, I doubt parents today would allow their kids to hang out and hold hands with a lodger they hardly know. Chuck McCann as Mr. Antonapoulos made an impression in a performance that is both funny and emotive despite fewer scenes compared to the book. Sondra Locke and Percy Rodrigues are also memorable.
Updates the novel’s small-town Southern setting from the Depression era to contemporary 1960s. I actually didn’t even realize about the change of decade until I read the wikipedia afterwards. Didn’t feel very 60s (apart from the race related issues) but I still connected with the characters. There’s sadness due to poverty, racism, and disability yet also moments of joy. A story that champions the outsider and is elevated by the acting. 







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Winter’s Bone (2010) (Debra Granik)

Neo noir mystery set in in the rural Ozarks of Missouri. The authentic dialect adds to the realism yet at times I found hard to understand. On rewatch, subtitles were a big help. Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Words travels faster in this small town than a Facebook update. The weakest aspect is the ending but the story is good with a sense of danger and things at stake. Lawrence delivers arguably a career best performance, immersing herself and becomes the character. John Hawkes is also great as her unpredictable uncle Teardrop.








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Naked (1993) (Mike Leigh)

Probably the filmmaker’s bleakest and most disturbing film although does have a dark wit. A brave move to have your characters unlikeable.
Johnny (David Thewlis pictured above) is from Manchester and wandering the streets of London, with a cynical attitude, observing and conversing with those he meets, at a friend’s house, a fellow on the street who can’t find his girlfriend Maggie, a security guard in an empty building, an older woman, a waitress, a man hanging up posters.
Johnny can’t stop talking but the most important things about his past remain hidden. A lonely, self-destructive pseudo-intellectual who appears smart at first encounter but his assumption about 666 on bar codes suggests he’s a conspiracy theorist. He seems to be a man running away from his problems.
The other male character Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) is even more unlikeable, a yuppie-type landlord who derives pleasure from humiliating women. Doesn’t address why he has become this way but I sensed there are reasons.
I prefer Leigh’s other work though I appreciate the performances and screenplay, you rarely find dialogue of this calbre in films anymore. I find the rapid-fire conversations are easier to follow with subtitles.






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Miami Vice (2006) (Michael Mann)

Is it a case of false advertising? Has very little in common with the tv show which took place in the 1980s. The movie seems to be set in the present and is darker, colder and more violent. Of course, if Mann had gone too far in the nostalgia direction and took no chances I probably would be complaining about that instead!
Throws you straight into the action. Lacks the charm and chemistry of the tv series. You can admire the visual poetry such as the speed boat sequence or beautiful shots of the city at night. The action scenes have suspense, especially the opening in the nightclub, but there arn’t enough of them.
Male viewers wanted to be Crockett or Tubbs in the tv series. Sadly I just didn’t care about anyone in the film. Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) (which I love) took the time to introduce the characters and is better off for it. I’ve read defenses of the Miami Vice reboot by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins, by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at The AV Club, and by Steven Hyden at Uproxx. Could be I just missed the little moments that makes the movie special. Scenes are played out with little to no context which will divide audiences. A critic wrote that “the pretense that anyone has control over their lives is quickly dispensed” and the film is about chaos.







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Liar Liar (1997) (Tom Shadyac)

Jim Carrey pulls off over the top moves but not as rewatchable as other comedies by the actor. The boy might have the best joke in the opening scene when he talks about his dad as a liar/lawyer. Overly sentimental and predictable story. The jokes are juvenile and probably best suited to a young audience.









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The Descendants (2011) (Alexander Payne)
Rewatch, and it’s not growing on me. Disappointing compared to Payne’s previous films Sideways and About Schmidt. Clooney plays himself and with a better actor, who knows if the movie might have been elevated. The story is low-key and lacks memorable moments. Payne spices things up with the Sid character but when the family are together it’s pretty humdrum. There’s a good performance by Shailene Woodley and the theme of different people having different opinions about the wife was intriguing. But not enough to save the film. Without Jim Taylor as co-screenwriter the magic isn’t there. Kudos for adapting and promoting contemporary Hawaiian literature but just didn’t grab me. Surely there are stronger novels from the region to adapt? I haven’t read the book and maybe this one is better on the page. If it wasn’t for Payne, I doubt I would even have finished the movie. I really wanted to connect but unfortunately The Descendants left me unmoved.
Favorite quote: “What is it that makes the women in my life want to destroy themselves? Elizabeth with her motorcycles, speedboats, and drinking. Alexandra with her drugs and older guys”.








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Easy A (2010) (Will Gluck)

Goes for a John Hughes approach with life lessons about rumors, reputation, naivety, and how words once said cannot be unsaid. The “pocketful of sunshine” scene is fun and I liked the scenes with Olive’s parents which are sweet. But for much of the running time, I felt I was watching performers and not actual people.







Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 2019
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) (Quentin Tarantino)
Quentin Tarantino continues his tendency to bask in over-the-top violence, yet his latest is arguably the director’s most melancholy, nostalgic, and compassionate film to date, a love letter to 1969. It’s also quite moving in some scenes. The most vibrant sequences are when Cliff Booth goes to the Manson ranch and the ending. Although in contrast to the energetic trailer, the movie is quite slow, indulgent, and in need of an editor. Cliff Booth is one of the most ambiguous characters Tarantino has penned and Brad Pitt may finally win an acting oscar. Fantastic late 60s soundtrack, brilliant performances, and the non-CGI set design transports you back to those times. 
Full review







What do you think? As always, comments are welcome