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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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Movie-Viewing Experiences  25/8/18 - 5/9/18     
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



OF MICE AND MEN (1939)
A+   MOVIE JUKEBOX
d: Lewis Milestone
CAST: Burgess Meredith; Lon Chaney Jr; Charles Bickford; Betty Field; Roman Bohnen
> a masterpiece of American cinema, created from a classic John Steinbeck story; featuring zero big-name stars but loaded with character actors, this tells the tale of two itinerant workers dreaming of their own slice of The Good Life...but destined to keep on drifting...or maybe even worse...; all aspects of the filmmaking craft are topnotch (I especially admire how music is used, and some of the tracking shots are sublime); particularly poignant is the shooting of the old guy's dog...watch how Charles reacts...masterful; the bitterness of this life is summed up by crippled Crooks: "Ain't nobody gets to Heaven"; this is what is meant by The Art of Film
Award-Worthy Performances
Charles Bickford; Betty Field



VAN DIEMEN'S LAND (2009)
A-   SECOND VIEWING
d: Jonathan auf der Heide
CAST: Oscar Redding; Arthur Angel; Paul Ashcroft; Mark Leonard Winter
> an Australian History story which is not suitable for those of you with gentle stomachs; it is 1822 and a workgang of 8 convicts escape their guards and flee into the South West wilderness of Tasmania...hunger soon looms large and the men resort to cannibalism, slaughtering their own until only one is left...yeah, no laughs here; I bushwalked this region in my 20's and the forest is prehistoric and overwhelming (I teared up once, looking out over a sunset vista)...it is rightly depicted as the story's monster...this brutal landscape does not want you there; the killings are appropriately horrific, but the horror that haunts comes from how quickly these men change into repugnant beasts; as you'd expect, the cinematography is gorgeous, but it's all greys and gloom, which suits a film that is beautiful and ugly at the same time



THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Felix E. Feist
CAST: Lee J. Cobb; John Dall; Jane Wyatt; Lisa Howard
> an effective minor film noir which sports a killer line: "The truth can get you 20 years"; detective's lover accidentally shoots her husband (3 times!)...the cop helps to cover it up...the cop's also-a-detective brother doggedly figures it out; Lee J is, for once, subdued and all the better for it, and John, while slightly awkward in a fairly mundane role, is a viable sleuth; unfortunately, Jane as the obligatory femme fatale shows why she was more suited to family TV shows...here, she's all hand-wringing & brow-beating (and has no idea how to smoke a cigarette); on-location in late 40's San Francisco, with the climactic sequence in the abandoned Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge being the highlight (love the bit with the drifting scarf!); swap Jane for Joan Bennett, and this could have been a genre classic



GENOVA aka A SUMMER IN GENOA (2008)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Michael Winterbottom
CAST: Colin Firth; Perla Haney-Jardine; Willa Holland; Catherine Keener; Hope Davis
> a beautifully-crafted movie about grief and surviving sudden loss; Mum & 2 daughters are in a car crash...Mum dies, the kids live, but with hangups...teenager is angry and sexually rampant + the pre-teen feels guilty and has visions...Colin is Dad and he moves them all to Italy for a fresh start; the film somehow maintains tension throughout (you keep thinking something dreadful is about to take place) but is possibly too gentle...while you don't want anything to happen to these people, when it doesn't, you feel a little used; the supernatural subplot is a virtual red herring but the compassion shown for this family shrugs that irritation away
Award-Worthy Performance
Perla Haney-Jardine



CORIOLANUS (2011)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Ralph Fiennes
CAST: Ralph Fiennes; Gerard Butler; Vanessa Redgrave; Jessica Chastain; Brian Cox 
> this is one of those Shakespeare-in-a-Modern-Setting films (like Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet and Loncraine's Richard III)...in this case, the tragedy is placed into a Black Hawk Down / The Hurt Locker war environment...with the language straight out of the play, so lots of "thine"s and "thou"s and beautiful phrases which are vaguely alien, so, because they go by quickly and conversationally, you're not immediately sure what was meant...unless you are an English Lit scholar; Thank Ralph then that most of the actors are strong enough to get meaning across (along with menacing, industrial music and action-style shaky camerawork); the story of the bloody downfall of a violent mummy's boy whose weaknesses got the better of him...hey, I'd rather watch Macbeth, but mainly because that one I've read



REVERSAL OF FORTUNE (1990)
B   SECOND VIEWING
d: Barbet Schroeder
CAST: Jeremy Irons; Glenn Close; Ron Silver; Uta Hagen; Julie Haggerty
> a passable did-her-or-didn't-he murder mystery made more interesting by a rather peculiar Jeremy Irons performance (he seems to be Slenderman channeling a George Sanders / Boris Karloff impersonator); based on a true story, rich guy Jeremy is convicted of his extremely rich wife's murder...he hires a hyperactive lawyer and a gang of well-scrubbed law students to get it overturned; it took me twenty minutes to realise that Ron was not that guy from Welcome Back Kotter...and how is anyone supposed to take Julie seriously?; another Aren't-Rich-People-Crap story featuring an indulged, self-destructive wife who smokes up a storm and takes her meals in pill form, this film intrigues in a gossipy, tabloid kinda way, but is not in the same class of cold fascination as True Crime documentaries like The Jinx and The Staircase



NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948)
B   FIRST VIEWING
d: John Farrow
CAST: Edward G. Robinson; Gail Russell; John Lund; William Demarest
> supernatural suspenser that screams out "Creepy Potboiler!", just like The Monkey's Paw (in which I had the lead role in High School...just sayin'...); vaudeville mindreader discovers that he can actually see the future...foretells the death of a friend's daughter...can he save her?; Eddie G is his usual nearly-toppling-into-OTT self (which is always a pleasure) + Hollywood Tragedy Gail adds her slightly other-worldliness to her part + William is in top scene-stealing form BUT John is a dud and the rest of the support cast barely exist; the tension comes from the prediction being made and the listed details falling into place (love the bit with the drapes, but the escaped lion is pretty stupid); not much of a whodunnit and certainly not an example of noir, this is nonetheless a serviceable entertainment which is just a little stiff in the joints



THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN (1985)
B   FIRST VIEWING
d: Jeremy Kagan
CAST: Meredith Salenger; John Cusack; Ray Wise; Scatman Crothers; Lainie Kazan
> a Great Depression story where most of the regular people are horrible and most of the down-and-outs are decent; 15YO girl lives in 1935 Chicago with her father...one day she comes home and Dad has left for a job in Washington...so she goes after him; pretty tough for a Disney film: kid smokes in the toilet + kid says "shit!" + kid fights off sexual assault; reverts to patented heartwarming form when kid befriends a Lassie-version of a wolf and they cross the lovely countryside together; Meredith is an appealing young heroine, and you just know that this is all going to end in a cuddly way after a few tears, but let's face it...you'd feel cheated if it didn't 
Award-Worthy Performance
Meredith Salenger



WEST OF SUNSHINE (2017)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Jason Raftopoulos
CAST: Damian Hill; Ty Perham; Arthur Angel; Kat Stewart
> ever had a mate who was an indisputably nice bloke, but was obviously a hopeless loser?...this is an affecting story about that guy; Damian is gambling-addict Dad and Ty is his young son...Dad has to look after Son for a day while he also tries to gather enough money to pay off a violent loan shark...par for the course, he turns to betting on the horses, begging friends for money and delivering drugs, all under the watchful eye of his boy; the rapport between father & son is beautifully handled by both actors (although the son needed a couple more scenes to open out his anger); the camera is too close up too often, so our observations are based mainly on facial expressions...which is too restrictive; and would this kid be that quick to understand and forgive a man who would rather sell heroin than sell his car?



RUNNING WITH SCISSORS (2006)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Ryan Murphy
CAST: Joseph Cross; Annette Bening; Brian Cox; Evan Rachel Wood; Jill Clayburgh
> a demented take on Frank Capra's 1938 You Can't Take It With You; a wannabe-famous writer goes to a quack-therapist and ends up becoming psychotic, dragging her beloved teenage son into increasingly-awful situations; sporting the trim of a dark comedy, it doesn't take long for this story to become ugly, all the charm of the initially-eccentric characters replaced by them being cruel, with lots of confrontations and shouting (and sex with minors, which apparently is no big deal); the acting is variable, but Annette (as the main nutter) and Jill (as Mama Drab) are marvellous; if you think your family is weird, this true story(!!!) will be a bitter-tasting tonic
Award-Worthy Performances
Annette Bening; Jill Clayburgh



THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (1939)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  4/8/18 - 24/8/18     
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 INNOCENTS (1961)
A-   SECOND VIEWING
d: Jack Clayton
CAST: Deborah Kerr; Martin Stephens; Pamela Franklin; Peter Wyngarde; Megs Jenkins
> the first time I came across Henry James' The Turn of the Screw was as an audio book, playing while I was driving home one night from Bendigo...it was hardly an ideal companion, creeping me out as I watched for roos in the headlights; this film version is beautifully crafted (deep focus + great use of shadow + classy dissolves), necessarily reducing the children's debauchery and, in compensation, fleshing out the governess' dread of sex; the ghosts are shown without fancy SFX or soundtrack heralding (they just appear), which means you never know when they'll turn up next; not the usual horror...but as unsettling as an empty grave
Award-Worthy Performance
Deborah Kerr



THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)
A-   THIRD VIEWING   RE-EVALUATION   Original Grade: B+
d: Brian De Palma
CAST: Kevin Costner; Sean Connery; Robert De Niro; Andy Garcia; Charles Martin Smith
> I was never much of a fan of the vintage TV series (I enjoyed the stories but thought that Robert Stack as Eliot Ness was as wooden as a bench), but this film is American myth-making-hoopla at its finest...the Yanks love a parade, and that's this movie...watch the good honest cops bring in the big bad guys, as scene after exciting scene go by...now, cheer!; the sequence set in the railway station is, I [ahem] believe, one of the great action pieces in cinema...and while it may be a ripoff of/tribute to 1925's Battleship Potemkin, who cares?; the violence is vile but undeniably riveting, and the heartwarming counterbalances are kept to a blessed minimum
Award-Worthy Performance
Sean Connery



BLACKKKLANSMAN (2018)
A-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Spike Lee
CAST: John David Washington; Adam Driver; Laura Harrier; Topher Grace; Jasper Paakkonen
> a commendable overreach...a film that strives to tell more than its story; the narrative is the true tale of a black detective circa 1972, who, with the help of a white partner, infiltrates the Colorado chapter of the KKK; this is bookended by a funny Alec Baldwin racist diatribe + not funny footage of the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where white supremacists clashed with protesters, resulting in a car-attack killing; comedy is used throughout the film (mainly taking off from how moronic the bigots are) but most of my laughter was over by the mid-section...by the time Harry Belafonte told his horror story, I was deadly serious; beautiful camerawork (loved the pans!) and use of inserts (1915's Birth of a Nation...gasp) but Spike substitutes tying-up unimportant loose ends for an ending; the purity of the message kicks it up a notch



LOGAN LUCKY (2017)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Steven Soderbergh
CAST: Channing Tatum; Adam Driver; Daniel Craig; Riley Keough; Hilary Swank
> this is a redneck comedy jiggered up into a heist movie, with a touch of the shaggy-dog-isms, so it's a little slow and long-winded in the telling...which is its major glitch; three siblings plan and carry out a speedway robbery with the help of an incarcerated explosives expert and his two dingbat brothers; the caper is impressively tricky to say the least (cleverly scripted) but it's the comic performances that carry it (especially from one-handed Adam who made me laugh out loud a number of times...wait until you hear him say "Cauliflower"); MAJOR BONUS: not a single gun used by anyone, not even by the cops...y'see America? You CAN do it!
Award-Worthy Performance
Adam Driver



SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH (1943)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Roy William Neill
CAST: Basil Rathbone; Nigel Bruce; Dennis Hoey; Gavin Muir; Hillary Brooke; Halliwell Hobbes
> this is Number 6 in the wonderful Basil'n'Nigel Sherlock Holmes film series, and a welcome return to Conan Doyle form (after 3 ra-ra WWII war effort efforts); the plot of this is quite Agatha Christie in style: murders take place in one place (a repatriation hospital for shellshocked soldiers which, during peacetime, is a creepy English mansion complete with secret passages and a clock that strikes 13) with seven suspects, all with logical motives (my faves are the three recuperating servicemen: one who knits, one who wears rope wrapped around his middle, and one who is wary of small packages); Dr Watson is less the comic relief this time and more the helpful partner of Holmes...they solve it together, which is nice; naff supporting performances don't cripple the show too much; an enjoyable dark'n'stormy night mystery which doesn't ask too much of you
PS Did you spot Peter Lawford? Yep, so young you can count the strands of bumfluff.



THE DIVIDED HEART (1954)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Charles Crichton
CAST: Cornell Borchers; Yvonne Mitchell; Michel Ray; Armin Dahlen; Geoffrey Keen
> the perfect title for a wrenching No Win / No Win story: seven years after WWII, a German couple receive a knock at the door...the supposedly-orphaned boy that they lovingly adopted when he was 3 has been claimed by his birth mother (an Auschwitz survivor)...now, I ask you, can you imagine a more heartbreaking premise? (and, for greater tug, it is based on a true story...in fact, probably hundreds of true stories); everybody involved is decent & wholly devoted to the child, so, no matter which outcome the film goes for, it will be unsatisfying... which is, of course, the entire point; I would have preferred more backstory-telling of both mothers (there are fleeting flashbacks which aren't enough) and an opening up of the kid's emotional tussle...he just seems to throw things then go quiet; still, it will get to you



THE WIFE (2017)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Bjorn Runge
CAST: Glenn Close; Jonathan Pryce; Christian Slater; Max Irons; Harry Lloyd; Annie Starke
> novelist is awarded the Nobel Prize but his wife has made a greater contribution to his work than the world knows; all of the critical accolades have gone to Glenn (who, when the writer makes his acceptance speech, gives a masterclass in silent reacting...stunning) but this is really a classic partnership performance...one of the best I have ever seen...Glenn & Jonathan are an as-flesh longtime couple, with no way to hide from / lie to each other; Near Fatal Flaw: it just isn't possible that this woman would enter into, then maintain, a subservient arrangement like this one...her titanic self-respect simply would not permit it...a doormat she ain't
Award-Worthy Performance
Glenn Close & Jonathan Pryce



ORDERS TO KILL (1958)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Anthony Asquith
CAST: Paul Massie; Irene Worth; Leslie French; Eddie Albert; Lillian Gish
> WWII drama set largely in occupied France...British soldier is sent to Paris to kill a double agent...the young man sees it all as a bit of an adventure, which has his superiors worried...but then when it comes to actually carrying out the murder...well, it's not as much gungho fun as he thought it would be; the big name stars really only contribute cameo appearances, so the lesser-knowns carry the picture...and they do okay, if lacking a little in the charisma department; the suspense comes almost entirely from our hero's Morality vs Duty tug-of-war, which is only intermittently enough to hold us; incorporation of street footage from the time adds that sought-after grey-day grit; the eventual killing is appropriately shocking & awful but the prolonged aftermath is more hysterical than gripping, then settles down into aw-gee niceguyness



SAHARA (1943)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Zoltan Korda
CAST: Humphrey Bogart; Dan Duryea; Bruce Bennett; Rex Ingram; J Carrol Naish
> a WWII Desert Campaign movie, filmed in the dunes of California; Bogie is a tank commander who is ordered to retreat after the fall of Tobruk...along the way, he picks up numerous strays (each one a different nationality...gee, what's the odds of that?) and they hole up in some old Arab ruins where there is water...but a nearby German platoon needs water too...; handsome cinematography (there's something about black & white and the desert landscape) and some solid acting aren't enough to compensate for some cringy (and understandable) moralising two-thirds in: Universal Brotherhood + The Evil of Fascism + Why We Fight + Heroic Deaths (as long as their first name isn't Humphrey); this is capped by the good guys turning into Super Soldiers: the 9 Allies decide to try and defeat a Nazi battalion of 500...and guess what...?



MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Christopher McQuarrie
CAST: Tom Cruise; Henry Cavill; Ving Rhames; Simon Pegg; Rebecca Ferguson; Sean Harris
> #6 in the MI cinematic franchise, this has been called the best of the entries, but don't you believe it; built around three main action sequences (1: motorbike pursuit 2: rooftop jumping 3: helicopter chasey / cliff-tumbling), this fully lives up to the brag "Impossible", so ridiculous are many of the setups...I wasn't the only one in the audience who chortled at the blatant silliness...must be tough trying to top what went before, but if it slips too completely into the Realm of the Absurd, it also takes a sidestep into Stupid; and while we're talking about humour, where did the intentional comedy go?...even comic-relief Simon is more stuntman than mood-lightener; having said all that, the three aforementioned action sequences are admittedly stunning but they're all you'll take away with you along with the empty popcorn box



CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  27/6/18 - 19/7/18     
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



DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
A-   FIRST VIEWING
d: George A. Romero
CAST: Ken Foree; David Emge; Gaylen Ross; Scott Reiniger
> I am not a zombie film aficionado (if pushed, I shrug-offer 1943's rather arty I Walked with a Zombie)...but now I can mention this; this is Good Zombie because it is far more than mere bloody product designed to scare / repulse...it's a biting satire of our compulsive-consumer society AND of American gun-toting machismo AND of the banality of violence; genuinely funny in parts (admittedly, revolting in parts too...lots of body-munching going on), this film has a question to ask: Is Modern Life all it's cracked up to be?; nifty touches here and there (love the Hare Krishna!) with a couple of fumbles: the mall-muzak should've been Herb Alpert's Greatest Hits rather than the cartoonish drivel used and it could've done with some pruning in the midsection; still, it's something special: a gory chiller that will make you think and smile



THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH (1978)
B+   SECOND VIEWING
d: Fred Schepisi
CAST: Tommy Lewis; Freddy Reynolds; Angela Punch; Steve Dodd; Ray Barrett; Jack Thompson
> based on the homestead murders committed by Jimmy Governor in 1900 (and other black/white massacres carried out and covered up in Australia), this film was hailed by overseas critics (like Pauline Kael) as a masterpiece... but was more harshly-considered here in Oz...which is hardly surprising; the violence is extreme (women and children are chopped) but historically accurate, as is the racist muck (the most common epithet given to Jimmie is "ya black bastard"); while I agree that this is an important Australian film (especially culturally), it is not without its flaws: the soundtrack music is overbearing and just wrong + the structure is at times quite rough-cut + the final scene is more a slam than an ending; and, while it is largely avoided, there is a little heroism which creeps in...hey, an axe-murderer is still an axe-murderer...



THE VIOLENT MEN (1955)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: Rudolph Mate
CAST: Glenn Ford; Barbara Stanwyck; Edward G. Robinson; Brian Keith
> a Range War Western (y'know...rich rancher unscrupulously buys up all of the surrounding farms...one guy refuses to sell and fights for what is his...all hell breaks loose...David beats Goliath of course) that has had the 1950's tag "psychological" hung onto it for extra depth; exciting in parts with one helluva horse & cattle stampede (which is cut too short), this is an action movie that could've been a lot closer to mundane if it wasn't for the high-calibre acting; everybody in support stands around and gawps in reverence at what Glenn & Barb & Eddie & Brian do...show real STRENGTH...individually, none of them overly impresses, but as a combo...wow; Director Rudolph keeps things panting along for 96 minutes and, while the climax is a bit of a letdown and the coda is too cuddly, the film largely cooks



ABSOLUTION (1978)
B   FIRST VIEWING
d: Anthony Page
CAST: Richard Burton; Dominic Guard; Dai Bradley; Billy Connolly
> now, here's two things you don't see everyday: Richard Burton & Billy Connolly co-starring in a film...and a story about a Catholic School student preying upon and terrorising one of the priests; Richard is the priest who is told by one of his boys during confession of wicked goings-on, which eventually lead to a murder...and possibly another...what to do? what to do?...can't break the seal of the confessional, but can't allow a child to be this evil; quite a taut thriller, but the transition of the kid into a killer is rather abrupt (it happens after befriending Billy!); the twist ending is a little too twisted, but gives Richard a chance to do his loud hammy thing
Award-Worthy Performance
Dai Bradley



SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Stefano Sollima
CAST: Benicio del Toro; Josh Brolin; Isabela Moner; Catherine Keener; Elijah Rodriguez
> the original (and highly-recommended) 2015 Sicario film was a crime thriller which was secretly a horror movie...this sequel (of sorts) is only a crime thriller and, as such, knows about tension, but it won't scare you (although it may scare Trump-ophiles); the action-packed plot runs like this: the good guys do bad things, the bad guys do very bad things, the good guys do very bad things, the bad guys do very very bad things, the good guys get ordered to do very very bad things...but change their mind and refuse because they are good; irritatingly flippant I know, but hey, I miss simpler days when the good guys wore white and patted dogs; this is certainly exciting and, if you can put up with a bit of brain splatter, you'll get a rush...but you'll only get the horrors from it when suicide bombers do their thing in a supermarket



NURSE ON WHEELS (1963)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Gerald Thomas
CAST: Juliet Mills; Ronald Lewis; Joan Sims; Noel Purcell; Esma Cannon
> early Sixties British comedy made by the Carry-On production team...with Joan being the only import from the franchise's cast; young nurse scores a job in an English village...she pedals around from eccentric to eccentric, with jaunty music in the background and misunderstanding following comic situation, leading to the inevitable romance with a country squire; while I can't imagine anyone objecting to anything as lightweight and benign as this, I can see how they might be bored...you will either drift along contentedly or nod off completely; minimal nudie-rudie humour is a plus but you can see why it soon became a larger component...spice is definitely needed; Juliet is quite nice and typical and the supporting cast (with very familiar faces) tries its best to add the required chuckles; pleasant and eminently forgettable



ANT-MAN & THE WASP (2018)
B-   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Peyton Reed
CAST: Paul Rudd; Evangeline Lilly; Michael Douglas; Hannah John-Kamen; Michelle Pfeiffer
> Marvel Cinematic Universe business-as-usual in this flick: slick competence without inspiration + mild jokes sprinkled in between a handful of solid action sequences + small amounts of sentiment standing-in for deep feeling; the gimmick here of course is the shrink/grow effects which are definitely impressive and add novelty to many of the fight scenes; the comedic stylings of Paul are subdued (I've never found him overly amusing...he seems to me to be rather one-note) and Michael Pena does his motormouth routine; Michael D gives a rehash of his straightfaced, bemused performance in Wonder Boys (which is welcome) and I always enjoy seeing Michelle, but everybody else is easily replaceable; nothing here is as hilarious as the Thomas the Tank Engine scene in Ant-Man#1 but it gets by



THE MIND BENDERS (1963)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Basil Dearden
CAST: Dirk Bogarde; Mary Ure; John Clements; Michael Bryant; Wendy Craig
> curious but decidedly thinnish film which I initially had great hopes for: a UK version of The Manchurian Candidate; all about enforced isolation and its possible military applications (prisoner brainwashing aka torture), this squanders its Cold War thriller potential and turns into a rather hysterical soapie instead; Professor Dirk volunteers to immerse himself in a sensory-deprivation tank to help solve the mystery of what happened to a colleague who did the same...he survives the ordeal, but Dirk has changed due to the power of suggestion...once a happily married man, he now despises his sixth-time pregnant wife; this film asks you to make the journey from espionage & national security concerns to domestic disharmony...from the martial to the marital (heh)...and the latter just isn't all that enthralling



THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: Cecil B. DeMille
CAST: Elissa Landi; Fredric March; Claudette Colbert; Charles Laughton
> one of those "camp classics" much-beloved by trendies...clunky dialogue, large acting, a couple of memorable scenes (usually involving flesh or grisliness or both) and an overall atmosphere of High Drama; an Ancient Rome epic which begins with Nero lyre-fiddling while his kingdom burns and ends with Christians being served-up to the lions...in between we've got Claudette having a wash in asses' milk (a highpoint), a holy shindig disrupted by mass-slaughter and an arena bloodsport where the spectators carry on like they're watching a Brooklyn Dodgers game, complete with sidebets and snackfood vendors; Fred looks silly in centurion togs, Elissa is a pious pain and Claudette loses interest once she's had her bath...only Charles as a chock-nosed Nero is worth attention; an olde-time spectacle that has passed its use-by date



CATCH-22 (1970)
C   RE-EVALUATION   Original Grade: B
d: Mike Nichols
CAST: Alan Arkin; Martin Balsam; Richard Benjamin; Jon Voight; Orson Welles; Anthony Perkins
> no, I haven't read the book; lines and scenes were quoted by my High School teachers over drinks in the Greenock Tavern, so pervasive was the film's cult back then...but it didn't have the longevity of Monty Python or Dr Strangelove for a reason: it's not very funny; a dark comedy about the stupidity of war, it goes for the obligatory balance between ludicrous and horror, but is defeated by TV's MASH, the only military-comedy to get it right; hard to believe that Director Mike was once part of a hit Broadway comedy duo...his comic touch here is heavy, and he is slack with the cast...most go for buffoon (a common mistake made by dramatic actors)... only Richard Benjamin scores; the film's saving grace is the quality of its message (which is still best given by Edwin Starr); watch Buck Privates if you need to laugh at war



LOVE CRAZY (1941)
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Movie-Viewing Experiences  4/6/18 - 26/6/18     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Tolerable   
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Vile & Repugnant: The Void



THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
A-   THIRD VIEWING
d: Charles Laughton
CAST: Robert Mitchum; Lillian Gish; Billy Chapin; Shelley Winters; James Gleason
> universally-hailed as one of the greatest of all American films, I've always admired this at arm's length; I appreciate that it is structured as a nightmare-fairy tale in the order of Hansel & Gretel, therefore gritty realism is hardly its aim, but I struggle with the broadness of the characters: Robert is too cartoonish + Lillian is too hokey + the kids are too amateurishly lousy...all intentional and fitting, but I find it off-putting; having said that, I acknowledge the primal impact of the film and much of the imagery (the LOVE vs HATE knuckle-tattoos + the drowned wife's hair floating in wisps + the starry starry trip down the river) is haunting; the confronting mix of Christian fanaticism, sexual violence and child abuse is the source of the story's horror; undeniably a powerful film but not flawless, despite what the universe says



EAST OF EDEN (1955)
A-   THIRD VIEWING
d: Elia Kazan
CAST: James Dean; Julie Harris; Raymond Massey; Richard Davalos; Jo van Fleet; Burl Ives
> yet another certified 50's classic which I think is somewhat overrated; this is the only one of the 3 major Jimmy Dean performances (he was in 5 other films prior, all tiny walk-ons) where he nails the inner-turmoil / teen-angst role of which he is the historic icon...the twitchy tics and overwrought histrionics which marred the other two are new and relatively low-key here; while Cal's motivation is clear (he wants Daddy's love), Aron is more muddled: his shift from goody-two-shoes pain to shit-on-the-liver sulker is too sudden and not entirely logical; and the tilted camerawork is a pretentious irritation; definitely still a good film though, just not a great one
Award-Worthy Performances
James Dean; Julie Harris; Raymond Massey; Jo van Fleet



DEATH ON THE NILE (1978)
A-   MOVIE JUKEBOX
d: John Guillermin
CAST: Peter Ustinov; Mia Farrow; Simon MacCorkindale; David Niven; Bette Davis; Angela Lansbury; Maggie Smith; Jack Warden; George Kennedy; Lois Chiles; Olivia Hussey
> a worthy companion-piece to 1974's Murder on the Orient Express, with completely different cast and director; just plain fun (despite / because of the bloody murders), the preposterous plot unravels surrounded by exotic scenery and sparkling with bits of humour (mostly courtesy of Angela's vampish lush and Bette Davis being Bette Davis); some of the acting is admittedly atrocious (how did George ever have a career?) but Peter is an enjoyably droll Hercule Poirot, ensuring that his moustache is not as prominent as his sleuthing...got that Kenneth?
Award-Worthy Performance
Angela Lansbury



EDIE (2017)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Simon Hunter
CAST: Sheila Hancock; Kevin Guthrie; Paul Brannigan; Amy Manson; Wendy Morgan
> yeah, another one of those life-affirming looks at Old Age (ref. The Straight Story + The Trip to Bountiful et. al.); occasionally slumping into the gaggy (wistful melancholy & swells of music & wet-eyed staring), the film manages to sidestep total schmaltz with the help of the spectacular Scottish Highlands and the spot-on performance by Sheila; an 80-year-old dear decides to reclaim her life by hiking up a mountain, something she has wanted to do since she was a wee thing...with help from a young outdoorsy guy and a bucketload of determination, she makes it; only souls of the coldest stone could bollock such a warming story  
Award-Worthy Performance
Sheila Hancock



HAMBURGER HILL (1987)
B+   FIRST VIEWING
d: John Irvin
CAST: Dylan McDermott; Steven Weber; Courtney B. Vance; Don Cheadle; Michael Boatman
> a Vietnam War movie in docu-drama style, based on the assault on the Ap Bia Mountain... actually, 11 assaults in total before the location was taken; standard structure for a war movie (you get to know the young men via at least one solo speech apiece and their downtime conversations...before they are butchered one by one) which works reasonably well (it usually does, that's why it's the standard), but I still found them to be a rather anonymous bunch; the battle scenes are gripping & appropriately awful, and this is one war film where the sense of Luck (who gets it; who doesn't) is right upfront; typical Sixties tags (chopper blades + Otis / Country Joe / Animals / Tempts etc playing way up loud + sex, constantly talking about sex) inevitably make you recall other VW films; anti-war of course, therefore worth watching once



KODACHROME (2017)
B+   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Mark Raso
CAST: Jason Sudeikis; Ed Harris; Elizabeth Olsen; Bruce Greenwood
> a character study road-trip with 3 people who have issues; sadsack Jason is persuaded to accompany his estranged father on a trip to the offices of Kodak...old Dad is a photojournalist who long ago chose his job over standard family life, and wants his last rolls of film developed before Kodachrome becomes no more (and before The Big C kills him); Jason has an everyman quality about him which is very affecting and Ed perfectly plays an arrogant arsehole having end-of-life regrets...mix in a lovely, natural Elizabeth as nurse and you have a performance partnership with real emotional kick; a story of family and how hard it can be
Award-Worthy Performance
Jason Sudeikis & Ed Harris & Elizabeth Olsen



THE DESPERATE HOURS (1955)
B+   SECOND VIEWING
d: William Wyler
CAST: Humphrey Bogart; Fredric March; Arthur Kennedy; Martha Scott; Dewey Martin
> a hostage movie that starts off tense but struggles to maintain it for 112 minutes...it only just gets by; Bogie is the escaped crim who takes over a nice, average, WASPy family home headed by Fred (with wife + teenage daughter + precocious 8YO son)...Bogie's nasty partners include the obligatory psycho; Fred walks away with acting honours (he is the only one who seems to be genuinely desperate) / Bogie's heart doesn't really seem to be in the role, as if he needs something more to the character (mental illness or moral angst) to help boost his portrayal / the support cast is merely adequate; still, the story has its moments and simmers appropriately
Award-Worthy Performance
Fredric March



HEREDITARY (2018)
B   FIRST VIEWING   IN-CINEMA
d: Ari Aster
CAST: Toni Collette; Alex Wolff; Gabriel Byrne; Ann Dowd; Millie Shapiro
> a horror film which strives to unsettle more than terrify or (thankfully) revolt; impossible to go into the plot too much without ruining the viewing experience (it really needs to baffle to give you full bang for your buck)...Toni is an artist, wife and mother of two teenagers whose own mother dies...she has a history of tragedy and worries about her mental health and that of her children...sure enough, more tragedy unfurls which leads Toni to get in touch with her spiritual side and this has, er, consequences; this is the slowest of slowburn horror movies and it occasionally struggles with maintaining the creeps...the hysterical finale somewhat makes up for it, but some images / occurrences are dropped in for pure shock and seem to only have a vague connection to what has gone on before; not the next The Babadook, but not bad



NURSE EDITH CAVELL (1939)
B-   FIRST VIEWING
d: Herbert Wilcox
CAST: Anna Neagle; Edna May Oliver; May Robson; George Sanders; ZaSu Pitts; H.B. Warner
> a moving true story delivered without the slightest breath of air (well, maybe a little from ZaSu); difficult to do a total hatchet job on this because the woman does deserve our admiration (WWI nurse Edith helps escapees from German POW camps and is promptly executed by the Hun for her efforts); May overacts to the point of unintentional silliness, but the major fail is from Anna / Edith herself...how bloody noble can you get?..all the cliched traits are on display...soft-spoken + calm in a crisis + calls on God when she doubts her strength + courteous & forgiving, even of the mongrels who shoot her + beautifully wan with skin that glows (no, it actually glows); look, instead of watching this, do what I did: climb Mount Edith Cavell in Alberta, gaze out over the magnificence and have a drink to the brave woman



TOO MANY HUSBANDS (1940)
C   RE-EVALUATION   Original Grade: B
d: Wesley Ruggles
CAST: Jean Arthur; Fred MacMurray; Melvyn Douglas; Harry Davenport; Melville Cooper
> a comedy which is more flimsy farce than classic screwball; the W Somerset Maugham story is about a woman who remarries after her first husband is declared drowned...but he selfishly reemerges dry and alive; rather limp when compared to the same year's (and similarly plotted) My Favourite Wife, which wins via the comic-chemistry of Cary Grant + Irene Dunne...in TMH, there is nil snappiness between players: as usual, Fred and Melvyn display a heavy-handed comic touch (it's a double thud) and, unusually, Jean is scatterbrained to the point of noisy annoyance (like she was in The More the Merrier...talks too much, too quickly and too mannered); even perennial scene-stealers Harry & Melville make minimal impact in support; the whole show thrashes about in search of risque laughs but barely divines a tee-hee



MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961)
C   FIRST VIEWING
d: William Witney
CAST: Vincent Price; Charles Bronson; Henry Hull; Mary Webster; David Frankham
> based on two lesser-heralded Jules Verne novels (Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World), this is really..
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