Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Just Watched Movies Again

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

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 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

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) 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

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, 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

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

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) this case, the tragedy is placed into a Black Hawk Down / The Hurt Locker war environment...equipped with the original dialogue, so lots of "thine"s and "thou"s and beautiful phrases which are vaguely alien...and, 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

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

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

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 day she comes home and Dad has left for a job in 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'd feel cheated if it didn't 
Award-Worthy Performance
Meredith Salenger

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?

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

d: William A. Wellman
CAST: Ronald Colman; Walter Huston; Ida Lupino; Muriel Angelus; Dudley Digges
> a load of old macho cobblers; Ronald is a British Colonial soldier fighting in the Sudan...he is wounded, returns to London, becomes an artist...then he goes blind...and, in a flourish of self-pity and clodheaded logic, returns to the war and certain death; while Walter is the only standout as the best friend (Walter always seemed sincere, regardless of part), young Ida is all vindictive huff with no subtlety (even as an experienced actress, she was only ever effective when mad at someone); the childhood prelude is ghastly, with two priggish kiddies spouting eternal love for each other whilst playing with a gun; the oil paintings which everybody rhapsodizes over are fairly hideous too; the blind guy's decision to reject the woman who loves him in favour of suicide-by-soldiering is more moronic than commendably noble

d: Maury Dexter
CAST: Kent Taylor; Marie Windsor; William Mimms; Betty Beall; Gregg Shank
> the filmmakers had to work really hard to make something with a title like that so cinematically inert; NASA scientist lands a probe on sends back a signal which secretly carries Martian intelligence...the scientist and his family are craftily replaced by aliens and they set out to infiltrate, I ask you...that sounds like it could have turned out pretty good, right? Real potential, right? dreary as grandma's lingerie instead; the whole saga takes place in some rambling estate which is more luxurious than eerie + the cast says words and frets a lot, but there's not much acting taking place + the first 40 minutes (out of a 70 minute film) is all about how tough it is on Mum and the kids when Dad works for the government...will the marriage survive?; have it on hand for when you run out of Diazepam

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