Films and TV of the month: December

 

Happy New Year to those who read this blog! Christmas was hectic. Made a little easier with great food, light entertainment thanks to Peter Sellers, and a few presents. I was given new quilt covers, a movie quiz game, and the collected works by the celebrated Danish poet Michael Strunge (he’s not well known outside of Scandinavia)
I also received Five Go Gluten Free (from 2016) with text by Bruno Vincent. In the sleeve, says the book is ”Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups”. Other titles in the spoof series include Five on Brexit Island and Five Give Up the Booze. Blyton must be rolling in her grave! I presume has been endorsed by her estate.

I’m omitting a few new film releases in this post as those will feature in my upcoming top 10 films of 2018. To be published later this month. I’m waiting for The Favourite (2018) which is out January 24 in my country.

 

 

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I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
With the music score, Scottish dialect, and stormy weather, actually deciphering the dialogue is at times quite the challenge. See it with subtitles. The scenery is beautifully captured and you get to witness customs such as a highland song and dance party. There’s an affection for Scotland in how it’s depicted on screen though not shying away from the dangers of the violent sea (and there can be beauty in nature’s extremes). The journey to find your place feels timeless and a film that probably grows on you on repeat viewings.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pink Panther (1963) (Blake Edwards)

Great music and the sequence when two men are hiding in the bedroom is a highlight. The animated intro and surprising ending are pretty iconic though the film feels a little long and the slapstick is only mildly amusing. Has charm in abundance thanks to actors like David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Claudia Cardinale as the Princess.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) (Blake Edwards)

A farcical 1975 sequel and 4th film in the long running Pink Panther series. The story isn’t particularly believable and the plot occasionally feels like rehash of the original, yet funnier than the 1963 film with many scenes designed for Sellers to get into trouble. The comedy becomes a bit predictable and forced after a while though does have its moments with the monkey/musician scene a stand out. As with the superior sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964), Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) steals the show. Christopher Plummer lacks the charm of David Niven whom he replaced in the role of Sir Charles Litton (spelled differently for some reason)
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Harakiri (1962) (Masaki Kobayashi)

Set in the 1600s in Japan, I’m sure this classic has historical significance as a document of seppuku (harakiri) and the hypocrisy of honor. The critics admire it, but I found the characters hard to care about and the dialogue tended to repeat things. Told in a non-linear fashion, many scenes are dull and feature men facing each other, talking formally. The action in the opening hour consists of a man stabbing himself which displays the samurai honor aspect yet is painful to watch. An important, but tiresome film.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Apparition (2018) (Xavier Giannoli)

Great central idea about a journalist investigating a woman who claims to have seen the virgin Mary. The story is too slow and long albeit the actors are good. Visually, it’s pretty drab and not easily remembered. The film’s strength is in raising a number of questions about the church, faith, and worship. The subplot about Jacques’s hearing was neglected. The ending lessens the importance of what came before. Resulting in a frustrating watch, as the movie is over, just when it starts getting interesting.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hal (2018) (Amy Scott)

A documentary about the life of beloved film director Hal Ashby who peaked in the 1970s with films such as Being There (1979).
There’s a bit of Hal within his films. I didn’t know his dad killed himself when Hal was only 12, and that could explain the fascination with suicide in Harold and Maude (1971).
Ashby has high praise for screenwriter Robert Towne who scripted The Last Detail (1973). Hal’s rebellous and anti-authority side comes across in those characters.
He lost control of 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) which was botched in the editing room. Very sad the way Ashby’s life and career ended. A bright light who became a bitter man, clashing with the film studio. But a wonderful run of films in the 70s.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Leave No Trace (2018) (Debra Granik)

The most overrated film of 2018. All the critics on Rotten Tomatoes think it’s praiseworthy yet to me a mediocre, flavorless drama. A more realistic take on that Viggo Mortensen movie in the forest Captain Fantastic, but I had forgotten the movie soon after. So Leave No Trace is an appropriate title! Winter’s Bone (by the same writer/director) is a better film and more impactful.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rider (2017) (Chloé Zhao)
I applaud a western that tries something different and delves into contemporary masculinity through the eyes of a female writer/director. I really wanted to like this film, but the narrative just didn’t hold my attention. Nothing much happens, a situation rather than a story. I found the lead actor dull to watch and this is accentuated by the slow pacing. I expected more based on the 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. A low-key work that I appreciate for its concept/idea yet found slightly underwhelming as a viewing experience. The last 10-15 minutes had some emotion.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

Films and TV of the month: November

 

 

 

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First Reformed (2017) (Paul Schrader)
Now out on dvd. A wordy, low-key, thinking person’s drama. About a priest who writes a diary and we hear his inner monologue. He has doubts about himself and his actions, questioning his professionalism. Uncomfortableness about “wanting to be liked”, drawing on his own personal life when helping a man in trouble. For those couples considering having a child, the film may provide the answers they need to make the decision.
The film has a slow, boring middle, but the beginning and ending are really well done, especially the extended conversation between Mary’s husband, Michael, and the priest Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke). Overall though, I expected more based on the critical reception. A film with a lot of potential and much wisdom sprinkled in. Unfortunately, it has pacing issues (in the middle part) and I wasn’t as absorbed in the story as I hoped I would be.
Schrader appears to be critical of the Iraq war, alcohol consumption, global warming, the ethical aspects of big business church funding, social media, etc. But it does feel like a grumpy old director complaining about the world through his screenplay.
Life is taking its toll on Toller in more ways than one, and the film shows that even a righteous, intelligent priest can lose sight of what is right and wrong. As another reviewer wrote: “He’s a good man who has lost his way”
While the story addresses contemporary issues, and features a great performance by Ethan Hawke, I can’t rate the film higher than 7, as it follows the Taxi Driver playbook quite closely, just with a new set of characters. Hopefully will grow on me on rewatch. I liked it, but hard work, as I had to watch in stages. Too heavy to sit through the entire thing in one sitting.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Other Side of the Wind (2018) (Orson Welles)

I’ve watched a handful of Orson Welles’ best known films, some of which he directed (Citizen Kane, The Trail, The Magnificent Ambersons) others in which he acted (The Third Man, Touch of Evil). I liked many of them.
His final work The Other Side of the Wind went through production hell and was for a long time regarded as “the greatest movie never released”. (Although I’d put Jodorowsky’s Dune right up there at the top of the list as well). Having now seen “Wind”, I have to admit the history of this project is more interesting than the film itself. I wish Orson Welles had finished editing while he was alive from the alleged many hours of footage, as it really was his baby. The Netflix version is almost unwatchable with its exhausting, restless camera and semi-autobiographical, loose narrative. An experimental, chaotic mess. According to the documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) the shoot was difficult: ”Everything had to happen right away even if we (the crew) didn’t understand what we were doing” ”There was no script” ”He (Welles) was constantly writing it as he was going along” ”The rule of thumb is, Orson Welles knows what he’s doing, don’t question anything”.
The main character Jake Hannaford (played by the late John Huston) is a revered director but also a prejudiced drunk with disdain for Indians and gays. Huston’s performance holds the film together and he may even receive a posthumous oscar nomination. I’m sure there are hidden depths I missed, the 70th birthday party sequence contains many random one-liners, but I just didn’t care much about anyone or anything on screen for large parts of the running time. Apparently all the different kinds of stock: super 8, color, black and white is the idea that various media people are following Hannaford around. It’s possible the dizziness and confusion of the party was intentional.
Some of the best scenes in The Other Side of the Wind depict Hannaford as somewhat of a lonely, attention-seeking figure, keen to remain relevant and liked yet his behavior pushes people away. He has a lot of admirers and people eager to benefit from his name but does he have any genuine friends? Welles’ final film is described in They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) as ”in a sense a bookend to Citizen Kane, about the tragic end to someone who had become great and then had lost his place in America”.
It’s been said the 35mm, wordless, psychedelic erotic film-within-a-film is a spoof of European arthouse cinema typified by Antonioni. The music choice of Fruit and Icebergs by Blue Cheer works well in the opening of that sequence.
There’s a nice instrumental soundtrack by jazz pianist Michel Legrand (who had previously composed the score for Welles’ 1973 film F for Fake). As talked about in A Final Cut For Orson: 40 Years in The Making (2018), Legrand’s music has a double function as entertainment for the party guests and a soundtrack for us the viewers.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suspiria (2018) (Luca Guadagnino)
Not a remake but a  “re-imagining” or “cover version”. Tonally inconsistent, shifting between gruesome, philosophical and emotional. Resists the temptation to be a mere retread by adding depth and meaning to the admittedly weak storyline of Argento’s 1977 classic.
(spoiler free full review)
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The House That Jack Built (2018) (Lars von Trier)
Serial killers (like filmmakers) display their creativity through their acts, and the film has unforgettable visuals. Is this a masterpiece by Lars von Trier or a pretentious ego trip? Hard to say, and I haven’t really decided how I feel about it. Important to discuss murder in society through art, although I felt he went too far in some places. Despite the disturbing subject matter, this is one of the director’s funniest screenplays.
(Spoiler free full review)
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Columbus (2017) (Kogonada)

Finally out on region 2 dvd. A soft spoken, moving story. Nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. A film that is most alive when Jin and Casy are just conversing. They both have personal problems. Like Lost in Translation, two strangers make an unlikely connection. Set in Columbus, Indiana, apparently known for its modernist architecture, there are many references to building aesthetic in the dialogue and cinematography. Could be a parallel between the architecture and the characters but I didn’t quick pick up on it. A simple, unhurried, old-fashioned story about dreams, hometowns, and loneliness. Haley Lu Richardson shines in one of the most underrated performances of 2017 as the confused librarian. Doesn’t provide massive surprises, but the story really doesn’t need that. The ”attention span” quote is bang on the money, kids have attention span for video games for hours, while bookish people might not have attention for games. So it’s about interest, not attention. But do we have interest in what matters?
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bloodsport (1988) (Newt Arnold)
Martial arts drama. Mostly clichéd, yet still drew me in with its energy and daft-but-fun storytelling. The fight sequences are well done even though Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is terrible in the scenes outside the ring. I’d never heard of a Kumite tournament or the name Frank Dux so I did learn a couple of things. Despite its 33% rotten tomatoes rating, an entertaining watch, which the 74% audience score indicates. The soundtrack is very 80s, but also inspiring, such as Fight to Survive by Stan Bush or the instrumental Triumph by Paul Hertzog.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creepshow (1982) (George A. Romero)
Dark comedy horror anthology film directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King. I’ll share my thoughts on each of the short films:

Prologue: I think most can relate to getting told off by our dad.

“Father’s Day”: Starts off promisingly with a family talking about a damaged woman and her troubled relationship with her father but ultimately becomes too silly.

“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”: Stephen King’s goofy overacting is ridiculous yet fun. I’ll forever be ill at ease from now on about going near a meteorite. Probably my favorite of these stories.

“Something to Tide You Over”: I love how the story sets the stage with an intriguing what-if situation. Visually is unforgettable. The ending has a bit of depth about guilt despite feeling familiar to another anthology story here.

“The Crate”: Tales about a domineering wife and an old crate are cleverly mixed. In spite of the dated special effects pretty creepy.

“They’re Creeping Up on You”: I was surprised by the ending. On reflection it was what you could expect to go wrong. There’s too much exposition of little importance.

Despite having issues with King’s acting, the special effects, and a couple of the endings, an entertaining horror anthology. It isn’t super scary and is quite tongue-in-cheek yet did make me feel uneasy at times. It’s just fun to watch!
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
The twist is surprising yet the way the characters are connected felt too scripted. The scene when the dad finds the pictures was hilarious. The Marisa Tomei and Carell scenes are funny as well, especially the bar scene and the meeting at the school.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018) (Stand Up Special)
Available on Netflix. Apparently this 70 min one woman show is one of the most talked about stand-up specials in ages. I respect Hannah Gadsby’s honest approach but unfortunately the jokes fell flat. Perhaps if you are Australian/Tasmanian or part of the LGBT community you will understand the nuances of the comedy better than I did. The most memorable jokes involve caution about Mr Right and the section about the color blue. She does have wise words, for example about tension and sensitivity, and talks about celebrity, linking it to her art history education and the #MeToo movement. Gadsby attempts to show us the lesbian experience through her eyes but I felt she didn’t bring much new in that regard as was mainly prejudice reactions towards her choice.
As the show progresses, she talks about her problems and in the second half becomes more serious. She’s right that “difference is a teacher” and you can understand why she has trouble trusting men.
Nostra at myfilmviews rated the special 10/10 in his review and wrote it is a “deconstruction of the genre”. I would agree with the latter. An odd mix of comedy and emotional confession as she debates quitting stand-up during the show because it feels self-deprecating and humiliating. The serious, heartfelt parts are moving and the special’s strength. If you are “different” in some way, you will probably be empowered by her. The anti-comedy stance is bold and original, and defies expectations. I just wish the first 30 minutes was actually funny. You can’t dismiss this special though, if you have a heart.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: October

 

 

 

 

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Mandy (2018) (Panos Cosmatos)
A wild, nightmarish, and visually dazzling horror revenge thriller set in 1983. Nicolas Cage delivers an intense, over the top performance that is a return to form. The weakness is you can sum up the plot in a few words and the second half is quite by-the-numbers. But very entertaining due to the stylized approach and extravagant use of sound and image. The storytelling is very visual and almost cartoonish. Johann Johannsson’s final score fits well with the retro 80s neon colors. The laughing scene is especially creepy and was scarier to me than the violence.
There appears to be social commentary on the misuse of religion and abusive men (the #MeToo connection is coincidental as the writer/director had been working on the script for about 6 years). Might be too crazy and extreme for some viewers but if you are in the mood for blood-splattered insanity it’s worth a look.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Stepford Wives (1975) (Bryan Forbes)

Thought-provoking and original. The social commentary about control is disturbing, and the last third is chilling. The mystery (which I won’t spoil here) takes its time and may test your patience as it’s about a sense of unease rather than jump scares. The build towards the reveal maybe was a bit too long and the movie could have been 20 minutes shorter.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lykke Per (aka A Fortunate Man) (2018) (Bille August)

It was one of three films shortlisted to be the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Among the most expensive films ever made in Denmark. Definitely a career high point for director Bille August, his filmography also counts the oscar winning Pelle the Conqueror (1987), which is not too dissimilar as both are based on Scandinavian literary classics set in the early 1900s.
I was emotionally captivated by the characters throughout despite an epic running time. Based on Nobel Prize winning author Henrik Pontoppidan’s Lykke-Per, a long book so I can understand why needed to be 2h 42 min. To be honest, I could happily have watched another 30 minutes. A story about ambition, family, and life choices. A lot of care has been put into recreating the past with costumes, sets, but the acting impresses just as much. For me, the first truly great film of 2018 so far and the upcoming extended made-for-TV mini series might be even better.
9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gräns (aka Border) (2018) (Ali Abbasi)
Swedish entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
I expected more from the story which is rather slight, but the makeup work is exceptional. Encourages us to think about outsiders and how they fit into society. There are some good ideas here but it’s lacking something to be a great film. The credits say it’s based on a short story and it definitely feels like a smallish narrative extended to feature length. A unique watch by making the audience both uncomfortable and curious at the same time, observing these troll-like characters in a realistic setting. The door is open for a sequel.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) (Eric Idle, Gary Weis)

I’m a fan of Monty Python but for some reason I had never even heard of the Beatles mockumentary The Rutles. Eric Idle is co-writer and managed to secure a bigger budget by having it made in the US as a TV movie (instead of at the BBC). The funniest parts are Idle’s comments and scenes as a reporter, for example the opening monologue when he runs after the camera, the rats segment (7 minutes in), and when he talks about the burning of the albums at about the 37 min mark.
They managed to secure a bunch of celebrity interviews including Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and George Harrison who play it straight faced and are all in on the joke. Even Harrison!
The tongue-in-cheek songs are done with great skill and have that unmistakable Beatles sound, even if the lyrics are not laugh out loud funny. The best might be Love Life (a parody of the Beatles’ own “All You Need Is Love”), With A Girl Like You (a parody of “If I Fell”) and Get Up and Go (a parody of “Get Back”). If you didn’t know otherwise you could take some of the music seriously. The worst is the Thousand Feet Of Film song for the horrible vocal. Although you could argue it’s intentionally cringeworthy! There’s also an accomplished animated sequence, created by the makers of the 1968 Yellow Submarine movie. Controversial to depict Yoko Ono as a Nazi and makes fun of the fab fours choice in women. A sequel exists called The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002).
Favorite quotes: “Their first album was made in 20 minutes, their second took even longer” “who created a musical legend that will last a lunchtime”.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Show Me Love (aka Fucking Åmal) (1998) (Lukas Moodysson)
A 90s coming of age classic. Moodyson has earned a reputation as a Swedish John Hughes and this story about teenage angst and love is believable, sweet, and well told. The two leads shine in particular, the lonely Agnes and the popular Elin.
As with Moodyson’s Tillsammans (2000) (reviewed below), the weakness is it fails to leave you with much conflict or food for thought. The ending is simplistic but in reality far from straightforward.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Together (2000) (Lukas Moodysson)
A good soundtrack with some Swedish music (Turid, Ted Gärdestad ) I didn’t know.  Also ABBA. Strong acting, and feels authentic in terms of a 1970s commune. The story is most involving when focusing on the drunk (Michael Nyqvist) and his family. The way it all wraps up is a bit too tidy though.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: September

 

 


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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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

Films and TV of the month: August

 

 

 

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Fletch (1985) (Michael Ritchie)
Watched as I read Stranger Things Season 3 will be inspired by 1985’s Fletch.
I couldn’t help noticing a Beverly Hills Cop (1984) vibe, the soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, the story of an undercover investigator fooling others to get ahead, the humour and sarcasm. But even with these similarities, Chevy Chase is very witty. Far more quotable than today’s movies. While it isn’t laugh out loud funny there are still many mildly amusing moments. I could see myself rewatching this one a bunch of times.
8-9/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Enemy Mine (1985) (Wolfgang Petersen)
Rewatch. It is implausible both human and alien can learn each other’s language so quickly (I assume the book does a better job of this aspect), but I like how the friendship gradually unfolds and easy to get pulled into the story. The practical sets are beautiful and believable. You could argue it’s simply rehashing 1968’s Hell in the Pacific in space but is quite moving and I have fond memories of connecting with the characters and setting on a lazy Sunday morning in my teens. The sort of comforting fantasy/sci-fi that makes you forget everything around you, pure escapism. I felt I was a third character on the planet with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. The naysayers will probably bring up Jerry’s almost comical gargling voice and I could see why that would put off some folks taking it seriously. Mostly avoids mawkishness and there’s enough warmth that I cared about their journey. The second half of the movie isn’t as strong although I’d still recommend checking it out if you like sci-fi and warm-hearted stories. Stays with you, especially Louis Gossett Jr’s likeable alien. Wolfgang Peterson’s previously directed Das Boot (1981) and The Neverending Story (1984).
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) (Francis Ford Coppola)

A poor man’s Back to the Future, this time from the perspective of a female protagonist. I felt the story is unambitious, devoting most of the running time to the romances when there was an opportunity to widen the scope. I will say the tagline on the poster “Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?” is effective and while watching I did think back to my earlier years.
Odd that Kathleen Turner looks older than the other characters and they don’t question her appearance? Nicolas Cage changes his voice to sound younger but it’s annoying to listen to. I like the confrontational sequence when they talk and the light comes through the basement window but overall the movie is too sentimental for my taste. Despite its three Oscar nominations, I would rank Peggy Sue Got Married among Coppola’s weaker efforts.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Local Hero (1983) (Bill Forsyth)

The phone box clip with the coins is hilarious but a little dated now. The therapist-Burt Lancaster scenes are pretty funny too. The baby question is another inspired, subtle moment of comedy. Unfortunately Peter Riegert is rather bland as the fish out of water lead. Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack is probably better than the movie. The story hasn’t aged particularly well. As another reviewer noted: “certainly wouldn’t make as much of an impact now (if released today). The world’s a different place — much smaller — and, the fact that the residents know the tremendous value of their property wouldn’t be such a revelation today”
A great ad for visiting scenic Scotland, but maybe the movie is slightly overrated. Yet it is the kind of powerful movie ending that could potentially change your life, so that counts for something. Apparently, a Local Hero musical will have its world premiere in Edinburgh in 2019.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Cathy Come Home (1966) (Ken Loach)
Recommended by Alyson, who wrote about the film here. The difficulty and expense of finding a place to live in the UK for a young family in the 1960s certainly is still relevant, even today many adults have to live at home with their parents.
A sad situation for Cathy and Reg. Not enough homes and long waiting lists. Getting pregnant despite not being able to afford another kid. An affecting drama by Ken Loach, calling attention to important issues.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Filmworker (2017) (documentary) (Tony Zierra)
It isn’t an essential watch, unless you are interested in the life and filmography of Stanley Kubrick . Not sure needed to be 94 minutes, but the relationship between Leon Vitali and Kubrick is intriguing. You hear about Vitali’s volatile father which made him understand how to be friends with the at times difficult Kubrick. Being his assistant was a dream which was sometimes very demanding as the director would give him endless tasks. Vitali certainly is an unsung hero for his dedication to helping Kubrick for 30 years. He admits he wanted the job even though it meant sacrificing his freedom by working insane hours, trying to please the director’s obsessive perfectionism. The behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the film sets are pretty forgettable although I didn’t know he was an actor on Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut, as well as so many other technical responsibilities such as print restorations, trailers, finding actors for Kubrick’s films, scouting locations, etc. Nice to see this hard working guy finally get his due, yet admittedly a minor documentary in comparison to Stanley Kubrick. A Life in Pictures (2001), which was more in-depth. Filmworker is really a  film about Leon Vitali.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 


Oranges and Sunshine (2010)
Oranges and Sunshine (2010) (Jim Loach)

An important yet predictable film. Only showing the families who wanted to be reunited isn’t the whole picture, there are going to be those who can’t handle it or don’t want it. Stories of suffering that we can agree on is tragic for those involved. Emily Watson is given a great role to play which she handles well.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Were Never Really Here (2017) (Lynne Ramsay)
Lynne Ramsay impressed me with the powerful We Need To Talk About Kevin and Morvern Callar. Why so much praise for her latest?! A lifeless, non-story, lacking plot. It’s sad Joe is wrestling with PTSD and inner demons, and even sadder the predicament the girl is in, but I didn’t connect emotionally to the characters or unpleasant situations. Go watch Scorsese’s Taxi Driver instead, as You Were Never Really Here is an unnecessary and forgettable homage to Travis Bickle’s likewise unreliable narrator.
3/10

 

 

 
Mission Impossible Fallout
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) (Christopher McQuarrie)
Better than Rogue Nation which I barely remember except the plane and underwater sequences. A great thrill ride with non-stop suspense for 2½ hours, the most exciting action movie I’ve seen in a cinema since Mad Max Fury Road. It won’t change your life but very entertaining and cinematic. I’m a fan of practical stunts and less CGI , this adds to the realism. The only aspect I disliked is the opening credits sequence which is a mini-trailer for what is to come.
Now that Danny Boyle has dropped out of the next 007 project, director McQuarrie is rumoured to be joining the 25th Bond film, which makes perfect sense as the action in Fallout is Bond-like.
8-9/10

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome