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Movie-Viewing Experiences  3/3/19 - 28/3/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void


HOTEL MUMBAI (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Anthony Maras
CAST: Dev Patel; Armie Hammer; Nazanin Boniadi; Anupam Kher; Jason Isaacs
> a perfectly crafted film, I am proud to say that this docudrama was largely made in my hometown of Adelaide...but that is where the pride will stop because this is not a film I intend to ever watch again; very difficult viewing after the still-raw atrocity in Christchurch, this is a film about a terrorist attack...specifically the 2008 storming of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel...and you are spared nothing; from a cinematic storytelling perspective, this is a disaster/horror movie hybrid (think Towering Inferno + Dawn of the Dead), and the tension/dread never lets up; words like exciting and suspenseful are wrong because you know that this is real, recently real, so you can only be appalled; based on a 2009 documentary, this dramatized account gripped me...but I can't help wondering why it was made; powerful, but sickening


NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (1947)
A-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Alberto Cavalcanti
CAST: Derek Bond; Sally Ann Howes; Cedric Hardwicke; Aubrey Woods; Stanley Holloway
> an impressive Dickens adaptation...what it lacks in humorously eccentric characters (only Stanley makes the grade), it makes up for in nasty or pathetically eccentric characters (Sir Cedric as Uncle Ralph is one of literature's scummiest villains and Aubrey is one of its most pitiable victims); appropriately sunless and dank with the Dickensian commentary on poverty and child abuse way up front, the film's only major flaw is in the casting of the title character and his sister (Derek & Sally Ann...both are drippy); not up to the heights of 1935's David Copperfield or 1946's Great Expectations, but a match with 1952's The Pickwick Papers
Award-Worthy Performance
Cedric Hardwicke


THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936)
A-   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: John Ford
CAST: Warner Baxter; John Carradine; Gloria Stuart; Harry Carey; Claude Gillingwater
> in the awful US tradition of The Scottsboro Boys and the West Memphis 3 comes this historic miscarriage of justice...Dr Samuel Mudd, wrongly convicted of involvement in the assassination of Abe Lincoln, is incarcerated in a Florida hellhole...he battles sharks, deprivation, sadistic guards (one chillingly portrayed by John Carradine at his skinniest) and an outbreak of yellow fever before the government finally says sorry; one of John Ford's few swipes at America (well...American leaders anyway), this has some brilliant sequences (the escape attempt is stunning, all silence and mottled gloom) and some unfortunate twaddle (the ever-so upset little woman at home + the cringiest of racial stereotypes + "Dixie" being played too often); exciting, well-crafted and educational, this film deserves more applause from John Ford fans


GAME NIGHT (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: John Francis Daley; Jonathan Goldstein
CAST: Rachel McAdams; Jason Bateman; Billy Magnussen; Kyle Chandler; Jesse Plemons
>  I missed this when it came to the cinemas early 2018...assumed it was going to be just another broad American comedy...which it is...but it's also often funny; a group of friends attend a private Murder/Mystery Game Night, which immediately spirals into the real thing involving kidnapping, shooting, Bulgarians, DIY surgery, a Faberge Egg, a Fight Club and a sad cop with a red dog; well-crafted comedy (I particularly like the shots where the people and vehicles look like gamepieces) ultimately works due to the topnotch comic rapport between Jason & Rachel... very Nick & Nora; a few flat spots and the usual needless sentiment, but good fun
Award-Worthy Performance
Rachel McAdams & Jason Bateman


COMPUTER CHESS (2013)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Andrew Bujalski
CAST: Patrick Riester; Wiley Wiggins; Myles Paige; Robin Schwartz; Gerald Peary
> welcome to the 1980 world of computer boffins, geeks, weirdos, but not necessarily losers; a group of painfully nerdy computer programmers get together every year with the sole purpose of proving that their chess program can beat everyone else's...and, eventually, will even outplay a human being; shot in B&W with old analog cameras, this independent movie manages to be experimental in narrative approach (imagine Short Cuts or Magnolia with fewer storylines, more improvisation and less craftsmanship), fascinating in a lo-fi kinda way, stocked with amateur actors who come across as simultaneously ordinary & exaggerated and sudden surprises (check out the ending!); the pace is more drone than beat which is occasionally numbing but I soon adjusted; a unique, challenging, even haunting re-watcher...after I've had some time away


STAN & OLLIE (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Jon S. Baird
CAST: Steve Coogan; John C. Reilly; Shirley Henderson; Nina Arianda; Rufus Jones
> a biopic about the latter days of Laurel & Hardy (of course); overtly sentimental, with some of the heavier facts sidestepped or only mentioned in passing (Ollie had terminal cancer + Stan was a serial husband), this is very enjoyable but a little soft; the performance partnership is flawless and you soon forget about Alan Partridge and the fat suit; a shame that only three of the duo's comedy routines are shown in full (and twice each)...and, sorry to say, the film improves once the pair has a major falling out; still, the most moving scene is when Ollie is ill and Stan gets in bed with him to give warmth...two long-time friends who love each other
Award-Worthy Performance
Steve Coogan & John C. Reilly


KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Don Sharp
CAST: Clifford Evans; Noel Willman; Edward de Souza; Jennifer Daniel; Barry Warren
> this has been named by some critics as the best of all the Hammer Horror productions...most of the praise highlights the cinematography (gorgeous, rich colour that still manages to serve the gloomy tale), and words like "stylish" and "skilful" are thrown about...all of which is apt, but what isn't mentioned is that it is also just Business As Usual; newlyweds arrive at a Bavarian village in the days of hand-kissing and smelly peasants...the woman ends up being abducted by the local vampire cult, and her husband + a weird professor risk all to rescue her; the cast is made up of unknown-to-me faces (even Peter Cushing isn't lurking about) and perform their parts with uninspired competence; the slowburn build-up works well but is lumbered with a rather nutty ending involving bats dangled on strings...hardly cutting-edge SFX, even for 1963


PRIVATE'S PROGRESS (1956)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: John Boulting
CAST: Ian Carmichael; Richard Attenborough; Dennis Price; Terry-Thomas; Peter Jones
> pleasant-enough "You're in the Army Now" British comedy, complete with the usual satirical nudge-nudging; Ian plays his standard chinless wonder who is drafted, cocks up constantly and bumbles his way back to civilian life; there are no surprises here: barking sergeant-major + ill-fitting, itchy uniforms + flabby layabouts being whipped into shape + spit 'n' polish + skiving about & artful dodging by likely lads; the old-hand actors do their reliably-sterling turns as breezy or out-there characters and ultimately make the lightweight script work (there are occasional snickers...thank you Terry-Thomas); when it swaps over to the inevitable in-the-field caper, things become slightly more serious and unfortunately more dull; this spun-off into 1959's I'm All Right Jack, which stuck it to Big Industry...a fresher target and a better film 


KING OF THIEVES (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: James Marsh
CAST: Michael Caine; Jim Broadbent; Tom Courtenay; Ray Winstone; Michael Gambon
> OMG...ANOTHER bloody film about lovable rogues who carry out a heist...I am so sick of etc etc; based on a true story (so?), we get 6 old farts who carry out a bank vault robbery...let's laugh at their antics: one geezer nods off during the break-in & has hearing aid problems, another needs Type 2 diabetes shots in the bum, another has Crohn's disease, another is a recent widower and another has bad hair & saggy man-boobs...at this point, I nearly walked out; then, in the second half, things improve mightily: they turn nasty and on each other, very prepared to be diabolical just to make sure they get a bigger share... this section has real impact (Michael C & Jim are frightening, senior citizens be damned); unfortunately, they all turn cuddly and jokey again at the end which muffs the now-established tension; half good


DESTROYER (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Karyn Kusama
CAST: Nicole Kidman; Sebastian Stan; Toby Kebbell; Jade Pettyjohn; Tatiana Maslany
> Nicole is a cop-gone-crooked who tries to atone for the mistakes she's made and the harm she's caused by finding the truly evil guy who started the whole mess; I was hoping for a redemption story (I always do) but all I really got was a villain's quest...at no point did I feel any compassion or even sympathy for Nicole's character...she is hard and driven, determined to get her man, regardless of the consequences; the camera spends a lot of time on Nicole's face, especially her bleary eyes, like a pair of pissholes..
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  13/2/19 - 2/3/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void


THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947)
A   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
CAST: Gene Tierney; Rex Harrison; George Sanders; Edna Best; Natalie Wood; Anna Lee
> along with 1945's The Enchanted Cottage, this is my favourite romantic-fantasy...and, as anybody who knows me would attest, I am hardly the romantic-fantasy type...so why this?: perfection in casting (Rex at his roguish best + Gene at her ethereal best + George at his caddish best) & a lush, inevitably haunting soundtrack (possibly Bernard Herrmann's best) & a warm, companionable script incorporating relationship-drama and unexpected humour & an early 1900's English seaside setting, based around a wonderful old house on a cliff (how charming can you get?) & an idealised, two-hearts finish that satisfies with a minimum of mush...aw gee 
Award-Worthy Performance
Rex Harrison


CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (1951)
A-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Zoltan Korda
CAST: Canada Lee; Charles Carson; Sidney Poitier; Geoffrey Keen; Joyce Carey
> I watched (and appreciated) the 1995 remake before I saw this original film...it's nice to be able to report that they are on a par in quality; a couple of my previous comments apply here: the stilted, formal dialogue somehow works (once you get used to it) and the lead acting (this time by Canada in his final film performance and Charles in the initially-less sympathetic role) is exceptional; very interesting (and heartwrenching) to see the black social/living conditions of 1950's Apartheid South Africa; A Side Note: Director Zoltan had to declare that Canada and Sidney were his indentured slaves before the South African government would let them in...
Award-Worthy Performances
Canada Lee; Charles Carson


IRON MAN 3 (2013)
A-   THIRD VIEWING 
d: Shane Black
CAST: Robert Downey Jr; Gwyneth Paltrow; Guy Pearce; Don Cheadle; Ben Kingsley
> the usual MCU mix of action and humour, this adds something fresh and risky, courtesy of Sir Ben...his performance as nasty mastermind The Mandarin (which I can't elaborate on, just in case you haven't seen this movie, but trust me...he's different); unfortunately, it was also its most disliked feature, mainly by purist nerds with moontans...me, I love the blasphemy; also admirable is how the sequence with the fatherless boy totally avoids turning saccharine...thank you...and the aerial daisy-chain is one of the more striking stunt scenes in all of Marveldom; sure, it's got its cringy spots, but for a three-quel, this is as good as The Dark Knight Rises
Award-Worthy Performance
Ben Kingsley


LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (1970)
A-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Cy Howard
CAST: Bea Arthur; Bonnie Bedelia; Michael Brandon; Richard S. Castellano; Gig Young
> a romantic-comedy where a quartet of stories sprouts out of the wedding of a young couple; admittedly, very Love, American Style / The Love Boat in nature, where this succeeds is in maintaining the comic quality throughout...all stories deliver their fair share of titters; nice inserts of seriousness & sadness here & there add depth without sliding into cornball sentiment; a collection of effective acting partnerships, there are some actors who still manage to give memorable solo moments (nods to Richard S. Castellano and Anne Jackson); this is a fun watch whilst quietly acknowledging that the hardest thing in life is other people
Award-Worthy Performances
The ensemble cast


BEN IS BACK (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Peter Hedges
CAST: Julia Roberts; Lucas Hedges; Courtney B. Vance; Kathryn Newton; Rachel Bay Jones
> another teenage junkie-hell story with the larger hell belonging to the addict's parent...so a companion piece (of sorts) to 2018's Beautiful Boy, and equally effective and miserable; in-rehab Lucas unexpectedly comes home for Xmas and for family (Mum & Step-Dad & sister & two half-siblings & a beloved dog) but he is unable to leave his drug baggage behind him; this is, of course, no popcorn-entertainment, but it does contain the usual feature of addiction films: it's an actors' showcase; Julia gives a strong performance as Mum and young Lucas has inner-torment nailed; harrowing by necessity, so be prepared to admire rather than enjoy this
Award-Worthy Performances
Julia Roberts; Lucas Hedges


COLD PURSUIT (2019)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Hans Petter Moland
CAST: Liam Neeson; Tom Bateman; Tom Jackson; Emmy Rossum; Laura Dern
> a quest-for-vengeance actioner which succeeds in doing things a little differently; Liam is a snowplow driver in the Rockies...his son is executed by druglords...Liam wants to pay them back, man by man; I was initially worried this was going to be another American gunfest (which it is), but what lifts the entertainment value is the marbling of dark humour throughout (and when I say dark...), providing laughs during some bleak moments (well, I laughed anyway...the only other bloke in the cinema stayed stum); spectacular snowfields scenery adds that Nordic Noir shiver; not much acting going on (Liam is an unappealing sadsack and why Laura would take on such a nothing role is a mystery...wait, let me guess...); despite a high splatter count being linked with a dubious version of fatherhood, this is better than you think it's gonna be


THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER (1963)
B   SECOND VIEWING 
d: John Huston
CAST: George C. Scott; Kirk Douglas; Dana Wynter; Jacques Roux; Clive Brook
> a murder-mystery that is more entertaining curio than thrilling story; George is ex-MI5 who is given a list of names to track down by a friend...the names are all dead, the friend also dies and others soon join him...what is the common denominator and who is next?; the British setting (London and the countryside of the gentry) and the crisp B&W cinematography aren't entirely enough to give the plodding narrative a needed boost; we know from the outset who the culprit is, and this prior knowledge makes George's sherlocking-about seem rather dimwitted; the film's gimmick made it popular: it features four major movie stars in heavily-disguised cameos...can you spot them?...but yet again, we are told at the start who is guest-starring, so our fun is dampened; still, it's an enjoyable, lightweight novelty


THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982)
B-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: George T. Miller
CAST: Tom Burlinson; Sigrid Thornton; Kirk Douglas; Jack Thompson; Lorraine Bayly
> a certified Australian popular classic which I have been putting off watching (I've owned a copy of the DVD for 3 years), not because I knew it was going to be crud, but because I assumed it would be pretty and dull; turns out I was spot-on, but the prettiness outweighs the dullness; an Aussie Western of sorts, set in the Victorian/NSW High Country (the main source of the prettiness), this tells the tale of wild horses, a wild woman who is in wild love with a mountain man, and estranged brothers who loved the same woman...yeah, better to focus on the scenery; dunno why superstar Kirk is here apart from being a sweetener for the Yank audience but he doesn't mess things up; fine performances from the Aussie actors (Tom & Sigrid have a fire going on) and some exciting horse-riding nearly make up for a (yep) dull script


SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941)
B-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: W.S. Van Dyke II
CAST: William Powell; Myrna Loy; Barry Nelson; Henry O'Neill; Donna Reed; Stella Adler
> #4 out of 6 in the series and a certain amount of middle-age spread has set in...the chemistry still works (William & Myrna remain an appealing double-act) but the formula is worn out (the murder plot is complicated but not terribly gripping + the comic asides lack freshness + the support cast seems to dither about wearily, just killing time until Nick 'n' Nora do their stuff + Asta is clearly only in it for the money); the main debilitation though is the kid...a toddler with too much to say...some people just shouldn't have children..the domestic cuteness siphons off the screwball charm; a few features keep it away from complete dudness: the sporting backdrop (racetrack & wrestling & turtle-sprints) adds an amusing 1940's commonfolk grit, the mass punch-up in the restaurant is a beauty and the whodunnit solution is enjoyably tricky


BITTER SPRINGS (1950)
B-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Ralph Smart
CAST: Chips Rafferty; Tommy Trinder; Gordon Jackson; Jean Blue; Charles Tingwell
> this is the 3rd in a series of 5 movies made in Australia by Ealing Studios (the best, by far, was 1957's The Shiralee)...all, appropriately, had young-nation themes...in this case, race relations; set in the early 1900's and filmed in the Flinders Ranges, this tells the tale of the King family setting up home & sheep next to a waterhole (in Outback Australia, a resource more vital than food)...the traditional owners want them to bugger off...and so the inevitable happens; there aren't too many cringing racist comments made which is a blessing (in fact, the film is reasonably evenminded...the whites aren't entirely wrong but the blacks are right); however, there are many cringes caused by Pommy Tommy trying to be music-hall funny; a watchable but hardly riveting tale of determined settlers and First People who fight back


AT ETERNITY'S GATE (2018)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  25/1/19 - 12/2/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void



HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALLISON (1957)
A-   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: John Huston
CAST: Deborah Kerr; Robert Mitchum
> yet another run-through of the Beachcomber / African Queen dynamic (rough guy meets pious woman in a time of war...she mellows him out as he toughens her up)...and just as enjoyable as its predecessors; in contrast to the other two though, this never fully blossoms into romance (she's a nun, y'see), so there's a certain sadness that never fully eases...which makes the story all the more endearing (and the drunk scene so upsetting); the South Pacific Island setting is an asset as is the always-hovering danger of the Imperial Japanese Army; the partnership of Deborah & Bob is acting perfection and (dare I say it) beats Kate & Humphrey
Award-Worthy Performances
Deborah Kerr & Robert Mitchum



THE MUMMY (1932)
A-   THIRD VIEWING 
d: Karl Freund
CAST: Boris Karloff; Zita Johann; David Manners; Arthur Byron; Edward van Sloan
> like any true movie fan, I adore the Universal Horror 1931-1941 run (from Dracula to The Wolf Man)...this first Living Mummy entry is not usually as highly regarded as the others (the James Whale others), but I've always loved it; Director Karl was originally Cinematographer Karl and this was his debut I'm-the-Boss film and doesn't entirely follow formula...it's one of the more, er, gentle of the early Monster Movies: long, dialogue-less scenes build tension and light/dark is painted about for eeriness...you're never frightened, but you are held in a constant state of uneasiness; the only humour present here is unintentional: when Boris the Mummy awakes and wanders off, one of the archaeologists has a fit of laughing hysterics and screams "He's gone for a little walk!"; a classy, slowburn horror classic that has not been made camp by age



PADDINGTON 2 (2017)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Paul King
CAST: Hugh Bonneville; Sally Hawkins; Hugh Grant; Julie Walters; Brendan Gleeson
> I was not a Paddington Bear fan when I was a youngster (not Rupert, Sooty nor even Gentle Ben for that matter), so I have no sentimental attachment to this...and I believe the absolute highwater marks for child/family films are HugoE.T. and Babe...so this was always going to have an uphill climb in my affections; I am happy to report that it's...nice; what makes this work is the mixture of flawless comic timing, a cast of British greats at their most gleeful, Hugh Grant at his most charismatic and the polite bear himself, all enormous wet-eyes & marmalade fetish; if you really want to have a good time, watch it with a 5 year old and listen to the laughing
Award-Worthy Performance
Hugh Grant



THE FRONT RUNNER (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Jason Reitman
CAST: Hugh Jackman; Vera Farmiga; J.K. Simmons; Sara Paxton; Alfred Molina
> this American Politics true story has been criticized for not delving deeply enough into its topic (namely: Is a politician's private life of public concern if the behaviour is not criminal?)...but I appreciate a political film that is not hysterical or cynical; Hugh (in a note-perfect performance... I immediately forgot I was watching an actor) is presidential-wannabe Gary Hart...in 1988, he is in the lead, but a Clintonish scandal nobbles him with help from a voracious media; it's hard to feel sympathy for a smart guy whose dick overrides his sense; the victims worthy of our pity are the thrown-to-the-sharks lover & the American people...Hart could've been a good one
Award-Worthy Performance
Hugh Jackman



MURDER MOST FOUL (1964)
B+   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: George Pollock
CAST: Margaret Rutherford; Bud Tingwell; Ron Moody; Stringer Davis; James Bolam
> while a number of esteemed actresses has played Agatha Christie's sleuth (Gracie Fields among them), there really is only one Miss Marple...Margaret, of course, and this is her best portrayal in the 4-installment series; with bags under her eyes large enough to carry knitting and a peninsula of a chin, Margaret swaggers her way through the mystery (actually a Poirot story), defying all to stop her being right; set in the world of repertory theatre, this is English to its bootstraps: a horse & trap used to collect jumble for a church bazaar + a bobby having a sly ale and riding a bicycle + a 3-wheeler milk van; a light, fun entertainment with a triple murder 
Award-Worthy Performance
Margaret Rutherford



GREEN BOOK (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Peter Farrelly
CAST: Viggo Mortensen; Mahershala Ali
> aka Felix & Oscar Go On a Road Trip; there's no getting around it...this is a nice movie...solid feelgood...predictable, sentimental and soft (A Christmas ending? Really?)...don't expect depth, and you'll have a pleasant time; set in the early 60's, Italian Scorsese-style bouncer Viggo is hired to drive light-jazz pianist Mahershala around the Deep South USA to a series of concerts and racist conflicts...both men's characters improve as their relationship develops; a few of their behavioural / attitudinal shifts seem to come out of nowhere, but that's not the fault of the actors...their performance-partnership is a joy and makes the movie ultimately work 
Award-Worthy Performances
Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali



THE BRIDAL PATH (1959)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Frank Launder
CAST: Bill Travers; George Cole; Bernadette O'Farrell; Alex Mackenzie; Duncan Macrae
> this amiable comedy tried to repeat the unexpected financial success of 1955's Wee Geordie (same star + same director + same producers + same Scottish Highlands backdrop) but it remained a fluke; islander sheepfarmer Bill leaves his small village on an unsubtle search for a wife (the gene pool back home is too shallow...inbreeding is easier but not ideal, you see)...his hicksy ways vex all those he comes across on the mainland and he lands himself in no end of misunderstandings and trouble; some of the humour (which is mild at best) comes from Bill's treatment of wife-shopping as if it's akin to assessing livestock...and how women throw themselves at him, regardless of how picky he is; another minor British comedy from the 1950's that you'll enjoy watching with a cup of tea & shortbread, and soon forget you've ever seen it



MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Josie Rourke
CAST: Saoirse Ronan; Margot Robbie; Jack Lowden; Guy Pearce; David Tennant
> all of the critical applause for this historical drama has gone to the acting (and the two women are wonderful...Saoirse is the most beguiling of modern actresses, and Margot takes what is essentially a supporting role and makes every appearance kick...and a different spin on the versions by Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett and Glenda Jackson...Margot's Elizabeth I is softer and insecure); overall, where this film falters is in the priorities of the storytelling itself: sexual politics & the politics of Feminism come across as more significant than religious politics & the politics of Dominion, and surely this was not the case; captivating but it wanders off point
Award-Worthy Performances
Saoirse Ronan; Margot Robbie



THE MULE (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Clint Eastwood
CAST: Clint Eastwood; Bradley Cooper; Laurence Fishburne; Dianne Wiest; Michael Pena
> being old is no excuse for being thoughtless, selfish or a knowing transporter of life-destroying drugs; grandpa Clint has been a lousy husband & father (he ran a flower company, spent most of his time on the road having a good time and missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings etc)...at the tender age of 90, his business collapses (the internet strikes again) so he turns to delivering drugs for a TexMex cartel...and he's pretty good at it too...but then family obligations, nasty crimelords and pesky cops mess things up for him; despite the film being structured for maximum compassion, at no point did I feel any sympathy for this greedy old bugger: the guy knows from the outset that he is carrying drugs and making money off of addiction...and if you don't like him, the intent of the film will be lost on you, as it was me 



BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Bryan Singer
CAST: Rami Malek; Lucy Boynton; Gwilym Lee; Ben Hardy; Joe Mazzello; Allen Leech
> okay, okay...I've watched it, alright?; I am not, and never have been, a Queen fan (they kept ordering me about..."find me somebody" + "we will rock you"...closer to Wagner than Elvis) and I particularly loathe THAT song, so I had no desire to see this but everybody kept telling me how great it was, so I went, and...What is the big deal, people??; another poor-little-rich-boy / he-got-what-he-wanted-but-lost-what-he-had celebrity bio, this tends to sanitize the rock'n'roll lifestyle (where is all the sex'n'drugs?..I want more than just hints & mentions-in-passing); Rami does a respectable job as Freddie (although those teeth make him look like my friend Flicka), but hardly revelatory, and some of the soapy situations occasionally defeat him; graded leniently because I was a singer in a pub band for 8 years and us artists have gotta stick together



 ELIZABETH OF LADYMEAD (1948)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  8/1/19 - 24/1/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void



DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
A+   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: Sidney Lumet
CAST: Al Pacino; John Cazale; Charles Durning; Chris Sarandon; James Broderick
> the story of two guys who try to rob a bank and it turns into an urban sideshow; a comedy that's not and a heist that's not and a drama that's not and a commentary that's not, yet this work of art is funny, tense, moving and says something about how we live, even now; Al (in his best performance...soft & manic combined) looks like a 6YO at his first day of school...he doesn't entirely know what's going on, but he wants to do the right thing by everybody...in this case, his wife, his kids, his lover, his mother, his friend and his hostages... but no matter how hard he tries, nothing works out; THE great New York film: humanity in a pressure-cooker
Award-Worthy Performances
Al Pacino; John Cazale; Chris Sarandon



BABE (1995)
A   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Chris Noonan
CAST: James Cromwell; Magda Szubanski
> instantly joining the ranks of the great kid + animal films (Lassie Come HomeThe Yearling & The Black Stallion etc.), this classic-for-everybody is slightly different in that the animal is the kid; an Australian/American co-production (the Aussies made it while the Yanks supplied the money & the expertise), the sheer exuberant whimsy of this is one of cinema's forever joys; Babe is a young pig who doesn't know his place in the scheme of farmlife...and through a combination of charisma and courtesy, becomes a sheepdog/pig; so many features are perfect in this (the voice casting & acting + the warm narration + the colours that pop + the NSW Highlands scenery + the moments of darkness + the three-part harmony mice + the duck); imagine if this had won the Oscar over Braveheart...now, wouldn't that have been somethin'?



THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   ON NETFLIX 
d: Joel & Ethan Coen
CAST: Tim Blake Nelson; James Franco; Liam Neeson; Tom Waits; Zoe Kazan; Tyne Daly
> feature film or made-for-TV movie??...the times they are a'changin'...; a compendium of 6 Western stories, all featuring Death as a punchline...the moods range from broad yucks to heavy sobs; as usual, the problem with compendium films is Quality Control...invariably, one or two of the vignettes stand out, some are okay, and at least one pales in comparison to the others...the same goes here, too; the best thing is that stories #1-5 are impossible to predict where they are heading...only #6 shows its hand early, and is the weaker for it; overall, I had a fine time with this, with a special nod to #1 (a fun kick-off with music and a hi-chuckling performance by Tim) and #3 (which somehow blends the bizarre with the darkly comedic and the downright sad); Word to the Wise: steel yourself for #5...it is not a prairie love story



IVANHOE (1952)
A-   AT LEAST THIRD VIEWING 
d: Richard Thorpe
CAST: Robert Taylor; Elizabeth Taylor; Joan Fontaine; George Sanders; Finlay Currie
> I was never much of an Anglo-action fan (y'know...knights, moats, merry men etc.), but this slab of MGM product has always been a joy and a 10YO's enthusiastic watch on a rainy weekend; taken from Sir Walter Scott's classic novel (sort of), this is given the full Hollywood We've-Got-To-Get-Them-Away-From-Their-TV-Sets treatment: the Technicolor is used to the hilt with rainbow brightness everywhere + the countryside looks hand-painted + the two women are drop dead gorgeous & frequently afraid + the hero is unbeatable + his friends are fearless & boisterous + the villains are rotten through & through (they can't even keep their word); but the real star is the weaponry: lances & arrows & battering-rams & swords & maces & axes(!!), used in association with jousts, castle-storming & shield-clanging, bloodless fights...what fun! 




ROMULUS, MY FATHER (2007)
B+   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Richard Roxburgh
CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee; Eric Bana; Franka Potente; Marton Csokas; Russell Dykstra
> set in early 1960's rural Victoria, this story of European migrants trying to make a go of it in a strange, changing land is classic Australiana...but not as uplifting or insightful as it could / should be, because the (true) tale is bleak to the point of injury...it lurches from one sadness to another, pretty much without let-up...some lightening would have worked wonders; however, it is completely rescued by the uniform quality of the performances, particularly young Kodi who is a freak of acting nature; a moving story of emotional fragility amongst decent people, this is beautiful to look at (the cinematography sops up the sunshine) but a little heavy to watch
Award-Worthy Performance
Kodi Smit-McPhee



PARENTHOOD (1989)
B+   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Ron Howard
CAST: Steve Martin; Mary Steenburgen; Dianne Wiest; Jason Robards; Rick Moranis
> pleasant comedy about parenting that tries to say a little something about that universal experience...which is risky...because it would be so easy to fall into the abyss of schmaltz...this teeters on the edge, but never completely topples over; the ensemble cast saves the show (with a special nod to Dianne, as usual), keeping the dread soap-operatics at bay through lightness & warmth of performance...they all seem to enjoy being with each other, like family; the film's wisest line comes from Grandpa Jason, complaining about being a parent: "No matter how grown they are or how old you get, it never ends. It never, ever ends." Can you relate?
Award-Worthy Performance
Dianne Wiest



X2 aka X2: X-MEN UNITED aka X-MEN 2 (2003)
B   RE-EVALUATION   Original Grade: B+
d: Bryan Singer
CAST: Hugh Jackman; Patrick Stewart; Ian McKellen; Halle Berry; Brian Cox; Alan Cumming
> generally considered to be the best of the Round 1 X-Men film franchise, I've always been slightly underwhelmed by all of 'em (including the Round 2 entries); while there is a lot of action going on, some of which is quite riveting (the opening attack on the White House + the raid on Xavier's school), it all just still comes across as a little...bland; part of this is due to the inconsistent quality-control of the acting: while Hugh & Patrick & Ian are perfectly fine, their characters are better portrayed (by them) in other X-Men/Wolverine installments; with the exception of Alan as Nightcrawler (difficult to not stand out in that role I guess), everybody else is a little...bland; complex (in the comics) characters such as Jean Grey and Cyclops are just good-looking people here who can do stuff; still fun if you're a fan, but it lacks staying power



THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW (1963)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Cliff Owen
CAST: Peter Sellers; Lionel Jeffries; Nanette Newman; Bernard Cribbins; Bill Kerr
> standard 50's/60's British comedy where the bright spots outnumber the flat ones and tits'n'bums humour hasn't yet taken over; Peter is in one of his typical pre-Strangelove/Clouseau roles, playing the head of a London crime syndicate (he gives us a spot-on preview of Michael Caine in Jack-the-Lad mode)...his heists are being continually disrupted/ripped-off by 3 thugs impersonating police officers (and, to rub salt in the wounds, they are all Australians!)...so, after meeting with the other ganglords, Pete teams up with real coppers to nab the imposters; some funny bits of business here (I love the criminal mobs thrashing out their grievances like a union meeting), especially from Lionel who does his usual pompous prat routine; the collection of familiar comic faces adds extra joy; don't expect too much and you'll have a nice mild time



THE LADY WITH A LAMP (1951)
B-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Herbert Wilcox
CAST: Anna Neagle; Michael Wilding; Felix Aylmer 
> another Herbert + Anna holier-than-thou British biopic, this time about Crimean superstar Florence Nightingale; while Flo was certainly an efficient nurse and a courageous woman, she was also a bit of an eccentric martyr (she was zealous to the point of mania and spent much of her last 40 years of life in bed due to brucellosis & depression)...here, Anna's portrayal makes her out to be a courteous shit-stirrer, butting heads with bureaucracy and refusing to be limited by the tag of "Lady"; a perfect example of John Ford's famous edict "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend", this film is all edifice with crumbly foundation, about as historically reliable as a Little Golden Book; for Anglophilic oldsters who are prepared to accept that someone would actually ask "Why must you blow a trumpet for Humanity?" in a time of war



DAREDEVIL (2003)    [DIRECTOR'S CUT]
B-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Mark Steven Johnson
CAST: Ben Affleck; Michael Clarke Duncan; Jennifer Garner; Colin Farrell; Jon Favreau
> if ever there was a movie of ups & downs...; on the upside, the casting of Ben & Michael & Jon is sharp and the saving grace of the whole show + the many in-jokes & set images are gifts to the comicbook fanboys + some of the action sequences (like the battle on top of the church organ) zing along + it gets the Catholic Guilt motivation of the character right; on the downside, there's the casting of Jennifer (who is more supermodel than superhero) and especially Colin (who gives an appalling cartoon performance as a psycho-assassin) + the soundtrack & cutting make it a rock video (how about a modern jazz score just for once?...it's an NY story after all) + some of the action sequences (like the playground stoush) are just bad + it blands-out the origin story; graded leniently..
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  23/12/18 - 7/1/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void



ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
A-   THIRD VIEWING 
d: Lewis Milestone
CAST: Lew Ayres; Louis Wolheim; John Wray; Slim Summerville; Lucy Arnold
> I read the book when I was 14, around the time of John Lennon's "Imagine"... I've been anti-flag and anti-anthem ever since; even after nearly 90 years, this film remains a powerful anti-war statement; while the young actors are awkward & amateurish (often spouting painfully didactic phrases...cringe), they come across as tall children, which fits the intent perfectly; the battle scenes are visceral horrors (Saving Private Ryan paid attention) and a few of the individual shots are framed in such a way as to stay with you long after they have gone by; watch this and despise the evil of old men using patriotism & religion to turn young men into killers & corpses
Award-Worthy Performance
Louis Wolheim



VICE (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Adam McKay
CAST: Christian Bale; Amy Adams; Steve Carell; Sam Rockwell; Jesse Plemons
> having turned a heavy topic like the Global Financial Crisis into an entertainment (2015's The Big Short), Director Adam takes a shot at the Rise & Fall of Dick Cheney, Vice President in the Bush#2 presidency; apart from Christian (who is wonderful as Dick, all fat suit and quiet determination), the real star of the movie is its creative construction...incorporating flashbacks & flash-forwards + to-the-camera asides + a false ending + dialogue from Shakespeare (Macbeth? Pure Invention?) + chummy narration + fly-fishing + documentary footage + open-heart surgery; I was never bored, I learnt a lot and I await the sequel Trump: Power Without Glory 
Award-Worthy Performance
Christian Bale



IRON MAN (2008)
A-   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: Jon Favreau
CAST: Robert Downey Jr; Jeff Bridges; Gwyneth Paltrow; Terrence Howard; Shaun Toub
> curious to look at this 10 years later, with the MCU having turned into an entertainment juggernaut...the financial success of this movie started it all; so many features are close to perfect: the tweaking of the origin story + the SFX, particularly the holographic imagery + the metal soundtrack + the banter between Tony & Pepper + the humour, both slapstick & quip...but most of all, of course, it's Robert...an example of inspired casting...the actor is at ease in the dramatic and comedic scenes and, because he is anonymously encased in armour, appears to be an action hero too; flat in a few spots and the villain isn't all he should be, but still great fun
Award-Worthy Performance
Robert Downey Jr



BULWORTH (1998)
A-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Warren Beatty
CAST: Warren Beatty; Halle Berry; Oliver Platt; Don Cheadle; Joshua Malina; Jack Warden
> 20 years have gone by since the release of this political satire, and its message still rings true: Everything is Rigged (or, to put it another way, "ain't no difference 'tween the Left and Right"); Warren is a senator on the re-election trail who has a complete mental breakdown (the cause: even he couldn't listen to any more of his bullshit)...he orders his own assassination (but rethinks that) + openly & honestly raps on about rich vs poor / race relations / urban disintegration / corporate evil / deliberate unemployment / police brutality (what? no digs at the NRA?..for shame); the film's greatest achievement is how it directly preaches Leftisms with humorous asides which are actually funny; punchy soundtrack (if you like hip hop) gives a boost; a blunt telling of what our (certainly not just the American) political scene has become



THE FAVOURITE (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Yorgos Lanthimos
CAST: Emma Stone; Olivia Colman; Rachel Weisz; Nicholas Hoult; Joe Alwyn
> Warning to delicate viewers: this is not a BBC costume drama (it's closer to Game of Thrones than Pride & Prejudice)...at my sitting, two walked out after the first couple of 'C' word barrages; Queen Anne is the centre of a tug-of-power between Lady Rachel and Maid Emma, with sex & lies & rabbits used to wrest control of the monarch's increasingly-ill heart; raved about by all & sundry, I was less impressed: the transformation of Emma into a Demon of Darkness was too abrupt + the film needed a final act, one last flourish of devious bitchism as a topper...instead, it just kinda fades away; a sumptuous entertainment about ruthlessness  
Award-Worthy Performance
Emma Stone & Olivia Colman & Rachel Weisz



COLETTE (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Wash Westmoreland
CAST: Keira Knightley; Dominic West; Denise Gough; Fiona Shaw; Eleanor Tomlinson
> astonishingly good in this (as Keira is in most period dramas...she just seems to belong there), it is beyond belief that this performance hasn't even been vaguely considered for Oscar nomination by those who wield the power...huh?; a bio-pic of French novelist/performer Colette and the pop-culture phenom that was the titillating Claudine series (the literary Beatlemania of early 1900's France); costumes, Parisian setting and French countryside (pre trench warfare) are all gorgeous to gaze over, as are the many close-ups of Ms Knightley...but the actress is more than merely stunning; a well-told (if a little rote) sexuality/gender liberation story
Award-Worthy Performance
Keira Knightley



UP THE RIVER (1930)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: John Ford
CAST: Spencer Tracy; Warren Hymer; Humphrey Bogart; Claire Luce
> a prison comedy featuring the swellest bunch of convicts you're ever gonna meet...maybe these miscreants are pacified by all the female inmates (it's a co-ed institution); a social fantasy, this story of friendship, romance and baseball behind bars is enjoyable partly because it is so downright peculiar; Spence (in his first feature film) partners with Warren to do an effective Abbott & Costello-style double act...and all of the laughs come from their to & fro; Humphrey (in his first feature film) falls in love and wants to bring the ex-con back to meet Mother(!); the only prison movie with a hayride, a zebra and the Warden's 10YO daughter as everyone's playmate
Award-Worthy Performance
Spencer Tracy & Warren Hymer



GUARDING TESS (1994)
B+   MOVIE JUKEBOX 
d: Hugh Wilson
CAST: Shirley MacLaine; Nicolas Cage; Austin Pendleton; Richard Griffiths; Edward Albert
> this is my favourite Shirley performance...strong-willed & secretly soft & blessedly restrained (she only yells once); Nicolas (who is quite normal in this...see, he can do it) is a Secret Service agent who must protect the widow of a therefore ex-president...but this First Lady is a major pain to everybody...Queen Curmudgeon; an eminently enjoyable piece of fluff, this movie meanders along a well-worn sentimental trail and only really messes up twice: #1=the bond between Shirl & Nic needed a couple more scenes to develop effectively + #2=the big dramatic finish is too nasty; still, the film's a small pleasure which I feel no guilt about whatsoever
Award-Worthy Performance
Shirley MacLaine



HELL'S ANGELS (1930)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Howard Hughes (and James Whale and a little bit Edmund Goulding)
CAST: Ben Lyon; James Hall; Jean Harlow
> as everyone says, this is really two films (one good; one bad) mashed into one: 
GOOD=WWI aerial-combat action, with some truly amazing footage of a zeppelin skulking through the clouds and a series of dogfights between biplanes, shot from all possible angles... even after all these years, this is spectacular stuff, with a number of haunting images 
BAD=a love-triangle slog involving two brothers (one good; one bad) and slutty Jean who must have had no more than 10 minutes of acting lessons before playing her scenes (although the two men are pretty dire too); My Advice: fast-forward through the Jean scenes (maybe pausing for when she actually says "I'll just put on something more comfortable"), play & replay the battles-in-the-sky, and stop for a while to consider that 4 men were killed during the filming



JUBAL (1956)
B-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Delmer Daves
CAST: Glenn Ford; Rod Steiger; Ernest Borgnine; Valerie French; Charles Bronson
> very good-looking (particularly the scenic vistas) but fairly mundane Western, despite being an apparent rejig of Othello; loner Glenn is hired by boss Ernest to work on a ranch...the boss's wife has the hots for Glenn but Glenn is a good guy and refuses to allow his sap to rise... cowhand Rod wants the boss's wife for himself, is therefore jealous of Glenn and plans a way to get everything he wants, including even; the three male leads add absolutely nothing new to their tried'n'true personas (Glenn=taciturn + decent & Rod=mean + loud & Ernest=a grinning McHale); more widescreen lust-in-the-dust than Shakespearean tragedy, this layers the psychological motivations until it achieves the much-sought-after Depth; never exciting and only occasionally interesting, this ladles too many turgid soap-operatics into an action genre



SECRET CEREMONY (1968)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  8/12/18 - 22/12/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Odious: The Void



THE PRESTIGE (2006)
A   THIRD VIEWING 
d: Christopher Nolan
CAST: Hugh Jackman; Christian Bale; Michael Caine; Scarlett Johansson; Rebecca Hall
> a dazzling story told by a gifted filmmaker; it is late 1800's London, and Hugh & Christian are competing magicians...after a tragic accident, their rivalry becomes bitter and violent...both seek THE trick that will make them famous; as usual with a Christopher film, the movie looks amazing and the script takes many unexpected turns and side-trips (my fave: Nikola Tesla appears... wonderfully portrayed by David Bowie[!!]...and plays a major part in the final twist), making it impossible to second-guess where it's all heading; also as usual, I wondered every now & then if Chris hadn't gone too far out with the imaginative stuff, but that soon passed as the sheer fascination of the movie re-grabbed me; strangely undersung in comparison to Chris's other masterworks, I actually consider this his most fully realised...much more than just clever



STREET OF CHANCE (1930)
A-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: John Cromwell
CAST: William Powell; Kay Francis; Regis Toomey; Jean Arthur; Stanley Fields
> a Pre-Code film about gambling addiction; William is a professional gambler in 1930 New York...his strict moral code doesn't preclude ordering welchers bumped off...one day, his younger brother Babe(?) turns up with a new bride and a hankering to try his hand at poker... but William won't allow it, and takes tragic action to return Babe(??) to an ethical way of living; while Kay plays another Kay Francis role and Jean is still learning her craft, William carries the whole show and is dapper, earnest and fatalistic...a too-late-now career-criminal who is well aware that his life is awful...his inevitable comeuppance is quite the emotional closing scene
Award-Worthy Performance
William Powell



SMILE (1975)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Michael Ritchie
CAST: Bruce Dern; Barbara Feldon; Annette O'Toole; Nicholas Pryor; Michael Kidd
> an American comedy about America that does it straight...you laugh because you know it's not exaggerated; set in the world of the Miss America beauty pageant (here cunningly camouflaged as the "Young American Miss" contest), we follow the teenage entrants, the organizers and the judges as they prepare to stage a show of glitz and glamour (the spectacular is more like a dread high school production); Middle Class USA is on display here: white people everywhere (with a token "person of colour" who is the target of bitchy girls) + fast food + sex + money + alcohol + God + homes with manicured lawns + an all-male lodge group with hazing rituals + used car salesmanship + a gun (obligatory); there are no knee-slapping guffaws here...but it maintains an air of light amusement without over-burdening you with cynicism



CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Marielle Heller
CAST: Melissa McCarthy; Richard E. Grant; Jane Curtin; Dolly Wells
> the true story of a misfit who commits the same crime over and over then gets caught...at least, that's all I thought this was going to be, but the unlikely and effective performance-partnership of Melissa (every time I see her, I think of handbasins) & Richard (every time I see him, I think of shotgun-fishing) deepens it; Melissa is a miserable grinchy writer who can't make ends meet...she starts forging and selling letters "written" by famous people...Richard (fellow boozer & reprobate) joins up, and a bound-for-disaster alliance is formed; more a look at debilitating loneliness than criminality, this entertains and occasionally affects...quite a surprise
Award-Worthy Performance
Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant



INFAMOUS (2006)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Douglas McGrath
CAST: Toby Jones; Daniel Craig; Sandra Bullock; Sigourney Weaver; Jeff Daniels
> a movie which shot itself in the foot with unlucky timing (in 2005, Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared in Capote, winning Oscars and critical hosannas); I infinitely prefer Toby's portrayal here of Truman Capote (for a start, the actor is short, surely an essential physical attribute)... the high whiny voice & the flamboyancy & the wit are all in fine form; however, this film is not as good as Capote: a couple of the supporting performances are awful + it inappropriately adds light comedy & a light hand with the truth (the Clutter Family Murders is a permanently-real horror story); still, this is an interesting look at an interesting man-of-his-time 
Award-Worthy Performance
Toby Jones



MANHANDLED (1949)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Lewis R. Foster
CAST: Dorothy Lamour; Dan Duryea; Sterling Hayden; Art Smith; Alan Napier
> lower-level crime film that, as usual, is labelled a noir just because A). it's in black-and-white B). it was made in the 1940's C). it's got a murder in it and D). it's got another murder in it; rich woman is killed for her jewels...hubbie is Suspect No. 1 but then the clues lead the police (and a wisecracking P.I. of course) to someone else...have they got the right one?; only Dan is doing any acting (and he plays his trademark: lowlife heel who would kill his auntie for a quick buck and some gum)...everyone else is cardboard at best and pulp at worst (Alan wisely quit acting and became Alfred in the 1960's campy Batman instead); what saves the movie is the script: trickily plotted, veering away from its starting point (almost the entire first 20 minutes is a red herring), and little bits of humour which, for once, are occasionally funny; surprisingly okay



SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)
B   SECOND VIEWING 
d: John Madden
CAST: Joseph Fiennes; Gwyneth Paltrow; Colin Firth; Geoffrey Rush; Judi Dench; Tom Wilkinson
> billed as a romantic comedy, this is much more the former than the latter...not that there's anything wrong with that; telling the [quite imagined] story of how Romeo & Juliet was originally staged at the Rose Theatre in 1593, this [quite overrated] film is beautiful to look at in costume, settings and British thespians...but it's more lushness than substance; the soundtrack music tends towards the overwhelming (it rarely stops swelling) and while the performers are fine, they are not especially great (exception: Tom); certainly a pleasant watch, but in the year of Primary Colours and Bulworth, hardly the Best Picture of 1998
Award-Worthy Performance
Tom Wilkinson



TOBY TYLER (1960)
B-    FIRST VIEWING 
d: Charles Barton
CAST: Kevin Corcoran; Henry Calvin; Bob Sweeney; Gene Sheldon; Mr. Stubbs
> a Disney movie about a boy who really does run away and join the circus...he's an orphan (of course) who is shabbily treated by his guardians (of course) and is looked after by a gruff animal trainer with a heart of gold (of course) and a clown who is wise with a heart of gold (of course), and befriends a rascally chimpanzee (double of course); the story rolls along its fairly-predictable way, with prime colour scenery, meanies who get their just desserts, a giggle here and a sob there; young Kevin gets the job done (applaud his stuntwork!) in the title role and Gene has a nice patter going as the clown; while this would put most of today's kids asleep within minutes, it has a certain old home charm for any 50+ year olds who were fans of Disneyland on TV; not up there with Pollyanna or Old Yeller, but it'll do if you want to remember being 9



SUSPECT aka THE RISK (1960)
B-   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Roy & John Boulting
CAST: Tony Britton; Virginia Maskell; Ian Bannon; Peter Cushing; Donald Pleasence
> a rather mundane politics/espionage drama; Peter leads a team of scientists whose work in microbiology is shut down by the government over security concerns...through resentment and loose lips, the research nearly falls into the hands of enemy agents; obviously on a tight budget, the production tries to scoot things along despite minimal sets and zero action scenes... as compensation, we get Ian playing (unconvincingly) the peculiar part of a bitter, no-armed war veteran who turns traitor, Donald in his usual white-rat role and an awkward Spike Milligan (of all people) as a chimp-hating caretaker; the movie is rescued from terminal staleness by two minor performances: Raymond Huntley as the ultimate far-too-polite politician and Thorley Walters as the ultimate dithering head-of-department...both very British comedic



THE OLD MAN & THE GUN (2018)
C   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: David Lowery
CAST: Robert Redford; Sissy Spacek; Casey Affleck; Danny Glover; Tom Waits
> this is where my tendency towards one-eyed grumpiness takes over: I am immediately wary of any story where an armed criminal is portrayed as sympathetic; old man Robert the Career Robber may be as charming as a bracelet, but he still uses a gun to steal money, scaring people (in one scene, even a child) into handing over their property...he's a selfish mongrel, regardless of how warm his smile is; the man's motivation (apart from greed) is that he considers theft to be "real living"...imagine if all that obvious intelligence and drive had been put into a pursuit which benefited mankind rather than exploiting it...it's a wasted life, and that's not poignant, it's pathetic; this bile is partially compensated by the conversational rapport between Robert and Sissy...natural, easy & affectionate...something we can all appropriately admire
P.S. Check THIS out instead if you have a need to celebrate the joys of thievery.



THE PHENIX CITY STORY..
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  13/11/18 - 7/12/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Passable  
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Repugnant: The Void



THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES (1936)
A-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Lothar Mendes
CAST: Roland Young; Ralph Richardson; Ernest Thesiger; Joan Gardner; Sophie Stewart
> a whimsical fantasy (taken from a H.G. Wells short story) that kicks off with an interesting premise: If you had the power to change the world, what would it look like?; Roland is the little Mr Nobody (British to his bootstraps + shackled at birth to the class system) who is suddenly granted Ultimate Power by The Gods...bit by bit, his understanding of The True World Order expands, and he decides to remodel it to his version of Right & Proper... unfortunately, he suffers from the same petty desires and selfishness that we all do; excellent SFX (well...okay... excellent for 1936) and the twinkling trio of Ronald (in a rare leading role) & Ralph & Ernest enrich the telling of the tale...and the timing of its Humanist message is perfect: there's been 3 years of Hitler-in-Power & WWII is 3 years away; one of the most prescient films ever made



LITTLE CHILDREN (2006)
A-   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Todd Field
CAST: Kate Winslet; Patrick Wilson; Jackie Earle Haley; Jennifer Connelly; Noah Emmerich
> aka American Beauty II, so it's a gentle look at how fragile humans are; inside Upper Middle Class Suburbia where unhappy marriages abound & lust is rampant in its many forms & nobody feels fulfilled; Jackie as the local neighbourhood pervert is the stand-out (disgusting and sad), but the entire cast pitches in with effective performances; I find the voice-over inappropriately smug and intrusive, insisting that what we are watching is a dark comedy...which is not how I felt most of the time; the film's central pearl of wisdom is, as Mick once said: "You can't always get what you want"...to which Glen would have replied: "So we've got to try a little kindness"
Award-Worthy Performance
Jackie Earle Haley



LEAN ON PETE (2017)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Andrew Haigh
CAST: Charlie Plummer; Steve Buscemi; Travis Fimmel; Chloe Sevigny; Steve Zahn
> this is a "Boy & His Horse" story only in the first section...the other is a road movie seeded with troubled people and tragedy; throughout it all is a good-hearted kid named Charley, who wants/needs someone to look after him...played wonderfully by Charlie (have a look in those eyes...a 15YO who deserves better than what he has been handed); the first half with the horse & pottymouth Steve Buscemi is pleasant and you wonder where it's heading...then the second half hurts you (and in one scene, severely); I worried that it was going to go Bigtime Bleak (which would have been an offence to both boy and audience) but we are all spared...phew
Award-Worthy Performance
Charlie Plummer
PS Personal to Marvel: If you haven't cast the roles of Nova or even Noh-Varr yet, Charlie is your guy.



INTERNAL AFFAIRS (1990)
B+   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Mike Figgis
CAST: Andy Garcia; Richard Gere; Nancy Travis; Laurie Metcalf; William Baldwin
>  a corrupt-police story, but this time the prime bastard is Evil Incarnate...and, as played by Richard, as charismatic as a black Armani suit...hey, let's face it...the baddie is always the best role...and Richard is clearly having a great time here; Andy (he of the wet eyes, calm voice and hair-trigger temper) is the good cop whose job it is to wheedle out and prosecute the bad cops; you've seen the shootout action many times before, not to mention all the marital problems, likeable partner, ominous music and killing of friends, but the tension is only turned up when Richard is on the screen...this monster is capable of anything, as long as it's vile
Award-Worthy Performance
Richard Gere



THE CHILDREN ACT (2017)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Richard Eyre
CAST: Emma Thompson; Stanley Tucci; Fionn Whitehead; Ben Chaplin
> rather genteel but still affecting tale about a literal Life-or-Death decision: the teenage son of Jehovah's Witnesses needs a blood transfusion, but their beliefs say no...and the boy agrees... and it's up to Judge Emma to figure out what's best; while I could have done without the Judge's marital problems (she is too busy to have sex with Stanley), the main story has two chapters, and the second one heads off in interesting directions; poorly framed at times (quite a number of scenes have characters scalped), it succeeds as a compassionate drama due to the stunning performance by Emma...it is a privilege to see her act in a meaty role like this 
Award-Worthy Performance
Emma Thompson



IF I WERE KING (1938)
B+   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Frank Lloyd
CAST: Ronald Colman; Basil Rathbone; Frances Dee; Ellen Drew; C.V. France
> sprightly costumer (the setting: 1400's Paris) that nicks another notch in Ronald's period bedpost (The Prisoner of Zenda + A Tale of Two Cities)...while it's not as good, it'll do; he plays a thieving poet who is made Grand Constable by the King of France in a fit of jest...needless to say, Ronnie turns out to be loyal, brave, noble and true, saving the King's reign from turncoats & blaggards; there's not much acting going on here (Frances is awful...again, and Ronald keeps doing an Errol Flynn, with hands on hips, head thrown back, laughing raucously)...Basil got all the good reviews as the crotchety King, but he overdoes the heh-hehs; some amusing dialogue (my fave: the King walks into his very-active torture chamber and says, "Smells like Cook's burnt the roast!") and peppy, slightly speeded-up fight scenes help enormously



THE FOUNTAIN (2006)
B   SECOND VIEWING 
d: Darren Aronofsky
CAST: Hugh Jackman; Rachel Weisz; Ellen Burstyn; Mark Margolis; Cliff Curtis
> Wikipedia describes it thus: "epic magical realism romantic drama film that blends elements of fantasy, history, spirituality and science-fiction"...gosh...me, the first time I attempted it, I fell asleep after 20 minutes; second time round, I got through it all (needed a beer-break after half an hour though), and it sort of impressed in parts (it looks gorgeous...the bigger the screen, the better), but it pushed me to my limits of arty/pretentious tolerance; three stories weave in and out of each other (Mayan folklore / Conquistador-ian quest + a cosmic journeyman...why are spiritual guys always bald? + a cancer-stricken wife and her husband-in-denial), all linked by Hugh & Rachel & the Tree of Life; some of it intrigued me, some of it bored me, but I left with one revelation: Death is an act of creation...now, take a moment...isn't that perfect?



THE DEAD GIRL (2006)
B   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Karen Moncrieff
CAST: Toni Collette; Rose Byrne; Mary Beth Hurt; Marcia Gay Harden; Brittany Murphy
> arty & heavy &, occasionally, affecting; 5 short stories which revolve around the discovery of a corpse (actually not a girl, a young woman...but I digress); #1: Toni finds the body and this becomes the impetus for her getaway from a damaging upbringing + #2: Rose is the forensic scientist who inspects the body and believes it may be her long-lost sister + #3: Mary Beth has proof that her husband may be the serial killer + #4: Marcia is the grieving mother looking for an explanation +#5: Brittany is the hard-times already-a-victim, who just wants to give her 3YO daughter a birthday present; obviously, this is all as depressing as hell, each story dealing with sex-as-escape & mental illness & thwarted hope; #2 & #4 are the best of the bunch by simply being emotionally identifiable...#1 & #3 are awfully weird, and #5 is slash-your-wrists stuff 



WIDOWS (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA 
d: Steve McQueen
CAST: Viola Davis; Michelle Rodriguez; Elizabeth Debicki; Cynthia Erivo; Colin Farrell; Daniel Kaluuya; Liam Neeson; Brian Tyree Henry; Robert Duvall; Jacki Weaver 
> aka Sisters are Doin' It for Themselves; a big deal is made of the all-female criminals gimmick, but I don't see anything particularly radical in the set-up (what...they resorted to armed robbery because their men didn't provide for them?...what's feminist about that?); too much time is spent getting to know these women and their motivations (the actual heist itself only lasts about 10 minutes)...which I wouldn't mind so much if these unpleasant people were worth the attention; Unavoidable Objection: these women are mothers whose children have already lost their fathers...why would single parents take the enormous risk of turning their kids into orphans?; despite claims of Depth, this is just slickly-designed product...all chrome and not much vroom



DREAM LOVER (1986)
D   FIRST VIEWING 
d: Alan J. Pakula
CAST: Kristy McNichol; Ben Masters; Paul Shenar; Justin Deas
> a Hitchcockian wannabe that flounders about, revealing its deficiencies at every turn; Kristy is a talented flautist(!) who is attacked in her apartment one night by a knife-wielding looney... understandably, she can't sleep terribly well afterwards and relives the trauma in her dreams... she seeks treatment, which leads to unexpected consequences; Kristy was just not a mature enough actress at this point to handle a role this heavy...she is particularly unconvincing when called on to go psycho (when Kristy is physically attacked, she's more annoyed than terrified); the supporting players, without exception, are as bland as beige; especially galling is how the young woman is dependent upon & manipulated by men whose motives are all suspect... but she just goes along anyway...what a doormat; this is by the same guy who made Klute?



HELP! (1965)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  21/10/18 - 12/11/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Passable  
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Repugnant: The Void



ON APPROVAL (1944)
A   FIRST VIEWING   NEW MOVIE JUKEBOX INDUCTEE
d: Clive Brook
CAST: Clive Brook; Beatrice Lillie; Googie Withers; Roland Culver
> very naughty and very funny British comedy that deserves to be far better known; in fact, this has been called the best British comedy ever made...while I hesitate to go quite that far, it's certainly up there with the Ealing classics; taken from a 1926 stage play, this has a premise (two couples stay together for a month in an isolated old mansion to "try each other out" before marriage... shocking, huh?) and loaded dialogue (the best lines are the zingers which snarl with sarcasm) that both Oscar & Noel would envy; the delivery by the 4 players is superlative, with a cheer for Clive who starred, directed, produced and adapted it; a must-see for fans of wit
Award-Worthy Performance
Clive Brook & Beatrice Lillie & Googie Withers & Roland Culver



BOY ERASED (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Joel Edgerton
CAST: Lucas Hedges; Nicole Kidman; Russell Crowe; Joel Edgerton; Troye Sivan
> a story about a cinematically long-neglected subject: Gay Conversion Therapy; Lucas is the teenager + Russell is Baptist pastor Dad + Nicole is Christian Mum + Joel runs a Boot Camp/AA style "clinic" based on Homosexuality=Satan; it would have been so easy to portray all the Christians as villains, but this has been largely avoided...while the "cure" brims with disturbing procedures (actual Bible bashing!), only one of the supervisors is filled with Right-Wing Hate... the rest sincerely believe they are acting in right-minded Love; confronting in a few scenes & just plain sad in most others, the unspoken line is "I'd prefer you dead than gay"...chilling 
Award-Worthy Performance
Russell Crowe



ONE MORE RIVER (1934)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: James Whale
CAST: Diana Wynyard; Frank Lawton; Colin Clive; Jane Wyatt; Mrs Patrick Campbell; C. Aubrey Smith; Reginald Denny; Henry Stephenson; Lionel Atwill; Alan Mowbray; E.E. Clive
> based on a John Galsworthy novel (he of Forsyte Saga fame), this look at British mores is a surprisingly toughish social indictment of its time (domestic violence + rape in marriage are clearly implied...and assumed to be a man's "right"...gawd); Diana is the abused wife (she suffers immaculately), Colin is her vile husband and Frank is her wannabe suitor...it all ends up being dragged through the muck in court, much to upper class titillation; while Diana & Frank are a rather dreary couple (how proper can you get?), the rest of the cast is fleshed out with an array of golden-era character actors who are always a joy (although you'd think that Director James could have found a role for Una O'Connor); this is melodrama with a backbone



BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Felix Van Groeningen
CAST: Steve Carell; Timothee Chalamet; Maura Tierney; Amy Ryan; Jack Dylan Grazer
> the story of a man who loses his son; another Junkie Hell movie, this follows the standard trek to the bottom via rehab & relapse, hitting all the potholes along the way...this film varies the descent by focussing on what the father goes through...which is no less harrowing (can you do 2 hours of harrowing?)...but it means that the impossible question is dodged...why this beloved, intelligent, decent kid? Just, why?; the performances are wonderful, with Steve excelling as a loving, everyman parent, and Timothee shaping up to be a future cinematic force; the only thing more heartwrenching than a sobbed "Please help me Dad" is the reply "I can't"
Award-Worthy Performance
Steve Carell & Timothee Chalamet



THE BIG RED ONE (1980)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Samuel Fuller
CAST: Lee Marvin; Robert Carradine; Mark Hamill; Bobby Di Cicco; Kelly Ward
> a WWII story about a unit of 4 soldiers and their sergeant, fighting in various campaigns of the War in Europe over four years; I kept recalling the old Combat! TV series (a favourite watch when I was in my early teens)...similar blend of the usual fighting scenes mixed in with the unexpected (in this film, the liberation of an insane asylum + dead Germans who aren't really); while you get to know Lee (tough & experienced & weary) and Mark (scared of being scared), the rest of them are a fairly anonymous bunch...the other men in their squad pass through with the barest of convivial chatting; quite striking in parts, same old same old in others
Award-Worthy Performance
Lee Marvin



WILDLIFE (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Paul Dano
CAST: Ed Oxenbould; Carey Mulligan; Jake Gyllenhaal; Bill Camp
> a family breakdown story; set in 1960, Mum & Dad & 14YO Son have moved to a small US town...another of many moves...Dad loses his job, Mum has had enough, Son wants to help but can't, Dad gets a dangerous job fighting a wildfire, Mum has really had enough, Son doesn't understand who these people are anymore; indisputably well-acted (and Ed is growing into an interesting actor), I still struggled with the characters anyway: there's no flow to their behaviours...they just suddenly do stupid things which jar with what we have already surmised about them; and the Son must be the most controlled, dormant teenager ever invented
Award-Worthy Performance
Ed Oxenbould & Carey Mulligan & Jake Gyllenhaal



JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942)
B   SECOND VIEWING
d: W.S. Van Dyke
CAST: Robert Young; Margaret O'Brien; William Severn; Fay Bainter; Laraine Day; Nigel Bruce
> Self-Confession Time: I have given this movie a false grade...it is, in fact, an undisguised slab of WWII propaganda with sickeningly-sweet scenes mixed in with patriotic calls for rage 'n' revenge; Director Woody Van Dyke's final film (he has The Thin Man franchise in his lengthy oeuvre), this is only tolerable to cynical 2018 eyes if you can consider it an historical curio, like a Model T or a mangle...and look at it through museum-glass; mostly set in 1940 Blitzed London, it tells how American correspondent Robert reluctantly visits a war orphanage for a human-interest story...and adopts two of the cutest kids ever instead (no, don't panic...he has a wife); 5YO Margaret became a star via this, and even when she whines and blubs, she's everybody's daughter; a movie made with the very best of intentions...gotta give it credit 



ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN (1958)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Nathan Hertz (aka Nathan Juran)
CAST: Allison Hayes; William Hudson; Yvette Vickers; George Douglas
> another one of those 50's sci-fi monster movies, but this one isn't too bad (well, it's certainly a bit more fun anyway...closer in spirit to Attack of the Giant Leeches than Night of the Blood Beast); rich heiress with mental and marital problems comes across an alien in the desert...the creature somehow grows the woman into a giant...and now, quite cross at her husband (louse) and his mistress (slut), the big lady vents her spleen; the SFX are variable (the superimposed full-body walks are too transparent...but the close-ups on the giant hand are pretty good) and the acting isn't overly wooden; best feature is the humour, both intentional (the deputy sheriff is a goof) and unintentional (my favourite line is "She's loose!"); this movie is sure to have been interpreted by some earnest film student as a feminist allegory...er, check out the poster...



DAYBREAKERS (2009)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: The Spierig Brothers
CAST: Ethan Hawke; Willem Dafoe; Claudia Karvan; Sam Neill; Michael Dorman
> a vampire movie that's got zombie in its heart; intriguing premise: the future world has turned into Bloody Hell, where vampires have become the dominant species and the surviving humans are rounded up and milked for blood...but as the human race edges closer to extinction, the food supply is dwindling...and the vampires are getting mighty hungry; lots of clever little touches in this film jazz up the standard vampiric traits (flame-on in sunlight + golden, glowing eyes + reversion back to bat-form if not fed + one bite and you join them) and it sure looks wonderful BUT it comes across as more sheen than substance: some of the action scenes don't thrill and some of the horror scenes don't shock; too one-note to be fun (you'd think there'd be room for a couple of jokes), this movie impresses but doesn't overly engage



A STAR IS BORN (2018)
C   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Bradley Cooper
CAST: Lady Gaga; Bradley Cooper; Sam Elliott; Andrew Dice Clay; Dave Chappelle
> what...AGAIN??; this is Version #5* and you must know the drill by now: a star goes up as another star goes down, down, down and out; nicely-bearded Bradley plays a Steve Earle-ish rockstar with the obligatory drink'n'drugs problem, while Gaga belts out song after song which are destined to become fleeting stadium fodder...then reborn in Audi commercials; while both actors (and Sam, who has a couple of nice moments) effectively stir up the angst, neither will blow you away like Judy Garland and James Mason did in the eternal 1954 version: no music scene here is as revelatory as Judy singing "The Man That Got Away" while James sits in awe; irritatingly, the only adjective anyone here seems to know when expressing emotion is "fucken"; this is the prime contender for 2018 Oscar glory?!...you gotta be kiddin' me
* I count 1932's What Price Hollywood as the first version. Watch it...you'll see why.



TORTURE GARDEN (1967)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  4/10/18 - 20/10/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Passable  
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Repugnant: The Void


JUNEBUG (2005)
A-   RE-EVALUATION    Original Grade: B+
d: Phil Morrison
CAST: Embeth Davidtz; Amy Adams; Benjamin McKenzie; Alessandro Nivola; Scott Wilson
> a gentle and gradual story with a poignant pay-off; Chicago Art dealer Embeth marries Alessandro after a one-week courtship, mainly because he's great in bed...she joins him on a stayover with his North Carolina family...the culture clash is immediate; starts off as a city slicker / country hicks joke, but slowly turns into so much more...everybody grows and becomes more interesting; greatest line of divide: Embeth is all touch and emotionally demonstrative, while the family only uses the word "love" in relation to Jesus and saves physical contact for special occasions; nothing is forced on you...you'll like these decent people all by yourself
Award-Worthy Performance
Amy Adams



AMERICAN ANIMALS (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Bart Layton
CAST: Evan Peters; Barry Keoghan; Blake Jenner; Jared Abrahamson; Ann Dowd
> a slowly-engrossing docu-drama about the 2004 theft of rare books from a university library in Kentucky; nimbly-crafted film (handheld kept to a minimum + interesting & effective editing choices) that I initially thought was going to be another one of those "jolly jape" heist movies where the criminals are comic and the crime is a skit (and it does start out like that)...but the last half hour raises it to a social statement: It is more difficult than you think to hurt someone just to get your own way...y'know...Ethics; the four guys are pathetic twerps who are clearly closer to child than man...the lowkey casting is actually a plus here...they possess no starpower charisma to help kindle appeal...for once, you are not being asked to envy how Cool the thieves are (quite the opposite); Crime Does Not Pay...about time somebody said it again



LADIES IN BLACK (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Bruce Beresford
CAST: Angourie Rice; Julia Ormond; Rachael Taylor; Celia Massingham; Ryan Corr
> in his review, Aussie-film-critic-icon David Stratton stressed that this film was NOT a lightweight...well, King David is wrong...it IS light, but it is NOT slight; I kept postponing viewing this, assuming that it wasn't my kinda thing (fashion...ugh) but, I too, was wrong: this is a thoroughly enjoyable, stunningly shot (bathed in Antipodean sunshine, 1959 Sydney and the Blue Mountains have never looked so gorgeous), beautifully-costumed and strongly acted (hosannas to young Angourie...the essence of happy charisma) movie, filled with appealing characters who don't seem to have even a drop of darkness in them; refreshingly nice 
Award-Worthy Performance
Angourie Rice 



BODYGUARD (1948)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Richard Fleischer
CAST: Lawrence Tierney; Priscilla Lane; Phillip Reed; Elisabeth Risdon; June Clayworth
> an impressive B-Movie; hard-but-true detective quits the force after one-too-many run-ins with his boss...he is hired as a bodyguard for the old lady owner of an L.A. meatworks...there's something underhanded going on...he's framed for murder...etc etc etc; Director Richard (of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea & 10 Rillington Place fame...and, er, Mandingo & Doctor Dolittle infamy) is still learning his trade here, but his skill is already apparent (striking close-ups and interesting stuff going on in the background); the script (co-written by big-name-to-be Robert Altman) is tricky with small touches of humour and quirkiness (love the death-by-train and the eye-doctor stoush!); the acting is admittedly pedestrian but gets the job done, and the whole mystery is solved and finished off with a cute ending in a sprint of 62 minutes



ME & ORSON WELLES (2008)
B+   SECOND VIEWING
d: Richard Linklater
CAST: Zac Efron; Christian MacKay; Claire Danes; James Tupper; Eddie Marsan; Ben Chaplin
> a High School kid lucks his way into a small role in Orson Welles' 1937 monumental stage production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar...during the experience, he learns about theatre folk, genius and sex; quite a Woody Allen kind of film (New York + artistic people + muted-trumpet jazz + an oversupply of talking), this is brightly lit with crisp cinematography and totally devoid of grit (the closest you get is the great man's occasional tantrum and his payback for arguing)... so I found it a little, well...lightweight; Christian succeeds in an impossible role (who could convince as Orson Welles?) and the snatches of the climactic performance impress
Award-Worthy Performance
Christian McKay



VICTORIA THE GREAT (1937)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Herbert Wilcox
CAST: Anna Neagle; Anton Walbrook; H.B. Warner; Walter Rilla
> I am not a Royalist...I think that Australia should have become a republic immediately after Churchill tried to bully our P.M. John Curtin into putting Britain first at the expense of Australian defence...the swine; this film makes a rather breathless "greatest hits" run through the reign of Queen Victoria: her ascension + marriage to Albert + Crimean War + Indian Mutiny + attempted assassination + near-war with the USA + death of Albert + crippling grief + Mr Brown + old, jowly & beloved; arthritic in spots, reverent dullness is avoided via strong lead performances and the courtship which has been staged as a rom-com...well, a 1930's British version of rom-com...
Award-Worthy Performance
Anna Neagle



BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Drew Goddard
CAST: Jeff Bridges; Cynthia Erivo; Dakota Johnson; Lewis Pullman; Chris Hemsworth
> everyone's criticism of this is its overlength (141 minutes)...and everyone is right; one of those multiple storyline films where all the strands tie-up together at the end, this has clearly grown from the same source as the Coen Brothers and Mr Tarantino: lotsa blood + dark humour + terrific music + quirky characters + strong scenes linked by sidetrack conversation + the unexpected...it's a formula which will always work if the filmmaker is good at his/her craft...and Director/Writer Drew is getting there; loaded with excellent performances, the story(s) falters when it drifts from being intriguing to being ugly...the entertainment quotient takes a hit
Award-Worthy Performance
The ensemble cast



FIRST MAN (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Damien Chazelle
CAST: Ryan Gosling; Claire Foy; Jason Clarke; Kyle Chandler; Corey Stoll; Lukas Haas
> a must-see for Spaceheads, this is a so-so experience for ordinary people like you & me; essentially The Neil Armstrong Story, this pretty much picks up from where 1983's The Right Stuff left off: the early 60's NASA space program and the competition to beat the Russians to the Moon; while this film's strength is the human stuff (the title is spot on...after all, it's not called First Landing), I found the cinematic craft itself to be an annoyance (lots and lots of shuddering camerawork, blurry close-ups and chop-editing, to give it that "You Are There" feel); during the Gemini 8 near-disaster, I recalled "Revolution 9" from The Beatles' White Album...all cut'n'paste noise and something I've only ever played once; the moon landing itself is terrific...but did Neil really leave his daughter's bracelet there...or is that just a Spielbergian touch?




RUN FOR THE SUN (1956)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Roy Boulting
CAST: Richard Widmark; Jane Greer; Trevor Howard; Peter van Eyck
> essentially a rejigged remake of the classic 1932 The Most Dangerous Game, the basic premise (man is big-game-hunted by a macho-baddie) is so durable that it has even been used in sci-fi shows such as Star Trek and Lost in Space...but this rather limp version is more standard search than sadistic sport; the movie is weighed down by the usual: soapy romance that keeps raising its tedious head at the most inappropriate moments + the woman is a useless burden the man has to drag along with him (why can't they ever keep up?); the build-up to the manhunt itself is slow, totally peripheral to what's coming up and just plain boring; on the plus side, the Technicolor is gorgeous (it usually is) and the WWII/Nazis-in-hiding twist is at least a little interesting; still, the 1932 original is in the Public Domain and on YouTube, so...  



VENOM (2018)
C   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Ruben Fleischer
CAST: Tom Hardy; Michelle Williams; Riz Ahmed; Scott Haze; Reid Scott
>  I was hoping this Marvel movie was going to do a Logan and go for something different and darker (a superhero/horror hybrid, which would have been an interesting shift), but no...within minutes, it slips into the same old same old routine: unsteadicam + vehicle chase + too-close-up action + little bits of humour + a crappy villain + Stan Lee; Tom is a TV journalist who absorbs an alien parasite (er, sorry, symbiote) and clashes with a threat-to-the-world evil rich genius...meanwhile of course, the girlfriend (what a waste of Michelle) frets and helps; lots of potential here for a potent thriller (very werewolf; very Mr Hyde), but it devolves into the head-eating monster becoming a funny friend with eccentricities, which is cheesy & dumb




CONNIE & CARLA (2004)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  22/9/18 - 3/10/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Passable  
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Repugnant: The Void



THE DROP (2014)
A-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Michael R. Roskam
CAST: Tom Hardy; James Gandolfini; Noomi Rapace; Matthias Schoenaerts
> yet another American mean streets movie, this one is a cut above a hundred or so of the others...it doesn't emphasise the bloodshed, but instead aims to keep you tense for 107 minutes... a classy example of slowburn in storytelling; Tom works for James in a Brooklyn bar, which operates as a money drop for Chechen thugs...resentments, brutal paybacks and big plans simmer away while Tom just wants a peaceful life with his dog and new girlfriend...but it isn't gonna be that way...; masterfully created using sound (thunder cracks while hard men talk softly) and ominously-held shots, this succeeds in being more thriller than gangster movie 
Award-Worthy Performance
Tom Hardy



THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
A-   THIRD VIEWING
d: Sam Peckinpah
CAST: William Holden; Robert Ryan; Ernest Borgnine; Edmond O'Brien; Warren Oates
> while most of the applause for this classic Western was given to the graceful violence, it is the exuberant craftsmanship that impresses me: staging + cinematography + music + editing...all amazing; I find the macho sentimentality (how can anyone admire these men?.."if they move, kill 'em") and the broad humour jarring (like in many John Ford Westerns), but the action scenes thrill in a dusty, rock-video kinda way, especially when the war-weaponry comes into play...although the climactic mass slaughter eventually numbs...one blood squirt too many; Edmond overdoes it in a Walter Brennan role, but everybody else packs a punch
Award-Worthy Performances
William Holden; Ernest Borgnine



THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO (2005)
A-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Jane Anderson
CAST: Julianne Moore; Woody Harrelson; Laura Dern; Ellary Porterfield
> affecting movie set in 1950's suburban America...Julianne is married to Woody and they have 10 kids...Woody is a weak, weak man who drinks and goes off on tirades, draining the family of money...Julianne gets them all through via her eternal optimism and regular entries in (and winning of) numerous slogan / jingle competitions; film is adorned with some glitzy overlays and speak-to-camera pieces, all of which work surprisingly well; labelled a comedy, it is the behind-closed-door confrontations which give the film substance and raise it above a mere colourful pastiche of Fifties middle-class culture...the woman is a truly-heroic domestic goddess
Award-Worthy Performance
Julianne Moore



THE TRACKER (2002)
B+   RE-EVALUATION   Original Grade: A-
d: Rolf de Heer
CAST: David Gulpilil; Gary Sweet; Damon Gameau; Grant Page; Noel Wilton
> this has been called THE great Indigenous Australian Experience film...on second viewing, I can't entirely join the fanclub...I noticed flaws which I didn't pick up first time around; while David is riveting (the man has presence) and Damon's decent-hearted kid plays well, Gary doesn't convince as the bigoted hater (imagine Russell Crowe) + as much as I love Archie Roach's voice, the frequent songs are moody without being grabby; however, this 1922 tale of three white men on the trail of a black fugitive, led by a tracker through a hostile landscape, remains emotionally affecting, particularly for an Australian with any sense of national history
Award-Worthy Performance
David Gulpilil



BUTCH & SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Richard Lester
CAST: Tom Berenger; William Katt; Peter Weller; Brian Dennehy; Christopher Lloyd
> a comedy-Western which is obviously a prequel to the classic Western-comedy (psst...the billing switch is deliberate)...and in a number of ways, I prefer it to what came first; Director Richard does here what he did for Superman and The Beatles: use light slapstick and perky to-and-fro to liven up the characters and make them amusing & appealing...buffing up what was already there; Tom > Paul Newman and William > Robert Redford are feasible transitions and the rapport maintains the original's competitive friendship angle; whoever scouted the locations had an eye for striking scenery and the outdoor sets have impact (love the boxy buildings!)
Award-Worthy Performance
Tom Berenger & William Katt



THE 14 aka EXISTENCE aka THE WILD LITTLE BUNCH (1973)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: David Hemmings
CAST: Jack Wild; 13 British child actors
> set in 1973 London, a poverty-stricken family of 14 kids (all boys...buy them condoms NOW!), living in a rundown house, are suddenly orphaned after Mum dies and their home is up for demolition... Welfare steps in and the kids are split up and sent to various institutions...but, of course, they just want to stay together; British Kitchen-Sink to the Max (grime everywhere with fag-ends and soggy chips, bleedin' this & guv'nor that); highly regarded by European critics (very real life, very England-is-crap), I found it to be rather unfair: the kids are little feral terrors who we're supposed to admire (they're tough + resourceful to the point of thieving + put family first...hey, they're just like The Krays!) while everyone who tries to help (social workers, neighbours, nuns) is humiliated; I mean, what would you do with 14 parentless kids?



BEAST (2017)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Michael Pearce
CAST: Jessie Buckley; Johnny Flynn; Geraldine James; Tristan Gravelle
> this film has been described by a critic as a "warped adult fairy tale" but the only descriptor that I can agree with is "adult"; a serial killer is at large on a British island (immediately a powerful premise)...a troubled young woman may or may not be in a relationship with him...the good folk of the village are rightly frightened and angry...what is the truth?; biggest problem I had with this movie was its misleading title: Beasts would have been more appropriate: Bullying + Domineering Mother + Mental Illness + Lust + Domestic Violence + Sex With Minors + Lynch Mob Mentality all lay equal claim as the title monster...the motivations of both lead characters are therefore frustratingly muddied and the actors don't overcome it; pretty scenery often shuddered by too much handheld camera; watch Broadchurch (first season) instead



NIGHT BOAT TO DUBLIN (1946)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Lawrence Huntington
CAST: Robert Newton; Raymond Lovell; Guy Middleton; Muriel Pavlow
> rather too-mild-mannered WWII espionage drama that could have only been made by the British...by the 1940's British...; obviously-low budget hurts a couple of scenes (the title voyage is laughably studio-stranded, and sawdust dummies do all the toppling off cliffs etc.); none of the touches of humour are particularly funny (exception: the final scene!) and the romance remains more bud than blossom; extreme stiff-upper-lip attitude on display at all times (when a good-guy agent turns up with his head bashed in, floating in the Irish sea, his colleague responds to the news with "Oh"); must be Robert's most restrained performance (he doesn't even raise his voice) and nobody else in the cast is anything more than competent; I have a question: why does the film have that title when it's got nothing at all to do with the plot?



TOVARICH (1937)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Anatole Litvak
CAST: Claudette Colbert; Charles Boyer; Melville Cooper; Anita Louise; Basil Rathbone
> a peculiar screwball comedy which is ruinously closer to dumb than it is to madcap; in exile after the 1917 revolution, man & wife of Russian royal blood are hunger-forced to secretly become household servants in Paris...serving at a dinner party, they meet Russian subjects from the old days along with a loathed Bolshevik with a violent past; most of the screwball setups occur in the first two-thirds...in the last third, reminiscences about torture and threats of retribution ("I'll burn your eyes out and fill the empty sockets with salt"...Jeezus...) clash mightily with what went before...like having sweets before the fish course; Charles & Claudette aren't able to strike sparks off each other and only Melville makes any impression in the crucial-to-comedy supporting cast; maybe this worked better on the stage...on the 1935 stage



MAN ON FIRE (2004)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Tony Scott
CAST: Denzel Washington; Dakota Fanning; Radha Mitchell; Christopher Walken
> I'm a sucker for Heroes-Who-Rescue-a-Kid stories...but I vastly prefer the surrogate parenting of Aliens over the bloodlust of Taxi Driver...and this film wants it both ways; ex (and now alcoholic & sad) US military guy is hired by a rich Mexican family to be a bodyguard for their 9 year old girl...the kid is kidnapped, the hero is nearly killed, but he sure ain't done yet, not by a hand-shattering, rectum-exploding longshot; I'm not a fan of Denzel the Violent Action Hero...he always seems to be superior to the material...the actor has nuance; the flashy chop-editing is initially used as an interesting way to convey our hero's inner turmoil, but then it becomes the actual style of the film itself...the constant herky-jerkiness is ultimately exhausting and tedious; thanks to cutiepie Dakota, the first half of the film will make you feel all warm inside



RAGE IN HEAVEN (1941)
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