I recall watching this upon its theatrical release and having mixed feeling, although it left me feeling it was a rather jolly affair. Loved it this time around but it is not very jolly. Tragi-comedy, I guess I would describe it and although the main thrust with the pending land deal is not at all interesting, the interplay between the characters and their development is brilliant. At the start all is something of a mess in the Clooney household and things change. Things may not become particularly any less messy but we learn to love the characters as they all seem to learn to live with each other in some sort of harmony. Laugh out loud in places but this is pretty bleak along the way.
The Descendants (2011)Laugh out loud in places but this is pretty bleak along the way.
25 February 2020
The Voice of the Moon (1990)A sad farewell indeed.
24 February 2020
This is a sad swan song from the director. In many ways. It is a rambling affair, too wordy and shot as if on sound stage with harsh and uncompromising light. Yet there is something about the (oh so Italian!) characters that come and go we imagine, throughout the overlong running time, that the whole will spark into life. It doesn't but what is so sad is that there are, now and again, moments that jump out as trademark Felliniesque visions. Flimsy white lace costumes revolve in unison, a beauty contest promises to burst forth, a group of unfortunates gather to catch a glimpse of 'pussy' as a neighbour undresses and finally a tethered moon brought to Earth. But overall and despite treasurable seconds this stands as a rather forlorn and unconsummated endeavour. A sad farewell indeed.
Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool (2005 TV Movie)Worth a watch but a bit sad.
23 February 2020
Nothing like as good as the other documentary on the Bullitt Blu-ray disc, dealing with film editing but this is just about worth a look. From the title you would imagine this is a great celebration of a great charismatic and cool guy but that just isn't the way it turns out. All the usual suspects say all the usual things except for his first wife Neile Adams, who is great throughout and Dickie Attenborough who is sycophantic and boring throughout, what a terrible man hiding beneath such a gentle facade. Mr Cool himself, who insinuated himself into scenes that weren't intended for him and passed on dialogue he felt he couldn't deal with (while he was concentrating on looking cool and reflective!) seems to finally come apart during the filming of Le Mans. He's a big star, approaching 40 at the end of the sixties - he wants sex and drugs and that's the way he goes. The Getaway and Towering Inferno are late highpoint but it seems he makes so much money from Inferno that more bad than good comes from it. I shouldn't criticise the documentary for clarifying all this and so maybe just the title should be changed to Mr Cool boils over or some such. Worth a watch but a bit sad.
Gun Woman (2014)the terrible bits are terribly well done.
23 February 2020
Fairly despicable seeming 70s throwback teeming with 'blood-spattered sexual debauchery' as it says on the box. However, and perhaps making things worse, it is well done. For whatever reason the amatuerish US wraparound was felt necessary, this apart the movie does what it says on the tin (or box). It probably took a day's filming to get the US footage which looks strange against the unremitting horror of the rest. The then 30 year old young lady from Japan calling herself Asami here is stunning and clearly totally committed to this awful role. First half she is brutalised and beaten (trained is the term used in these type of films) until deemed ready for action. But this is no Nikita, here young girls bodies are ripped apart, the dead are in big demand at a special 'brothel' and this builds frighteningly and unflinchingly towards the inevitable awesome and awful denouement. Wince inducing scenes here and dubious raison d'être but at least the makers have the courage of their convictions to carry this out in so uncompromising a manner. Wouldn't recommend this to anyone, I know but, fairly surprisingly it is out there and the terrible bits are terribly well done.
Informative, fast moving, colourful and of course, well edited.
22 February 2020
Very fine feature length documentary lurking amidst the extras on my Bullitt Blu-ray disc. Little direct relevance to that film except that it did win an Oscar for editing and we do get to see some of the famous car chase. But never mind, all the better for not being directly related for this is a far reaching and informative piece. Kathy Bates narrates the early b/w footage and informs us that women were the first editors. It was considered somewhat related to sewing and stitching we are told and therefore appropriately relegated to ladies until sound came in and men had to be involved because that was far too technical. Before we have a chance to remonstrate we have Tarantino introducing his beloved editor Sally Menke and all is sweet and light. I had never seen Menke or fellow editors Walter Much, Craig McKay and others before and cannot even recall seeing Alexander Payne, Joe Dante or Lawrence Kasden, three of the numerous directors who also put in their pennies worth plus great little anecdotes. Informative, fast moving, colourful and of course, well edited.
Bullitt (1968)still a thrill to watch
22 February 2020
There cannot be anything new to write about this iconic film but I will say that watching it last night on Blu-ray with all the lovey shiny coloured cars it was a refreshing experience. A little slow at first, as used to be the case - no bang into the action and then going back in the 60s - but it soon picks up and anyway we have Mr Cool to look at. Any number of McQueen close-ups throughout and despite the allure of those piercing blue eyes you just know his mind is ticking over and the story is about to take a lurch. Jacqueline Bisset is at her prettiest and Robert Vaughan his slimiest but we do not spend much time with sex or the intricacies of the political situation for this is one man against the system with lots of immaculately filmed 'chase'. Actually, although the 'Frisco car chase is still wonderful to watch I was particularly stunned with the non car chase in the busy airport at the end. Lots of clever editing, I'm sure but still a thrill to watch. Fine film with Steve McQueen at his best.
Harlequin (1980)There is much to enjoy here amid the magic and mayhem
21 February 2020
Clearly not the greatest film ever made but very clear that a lot went into this to make it that little bit different. If it has a bit of a TV movie look to it that is because of the limited location shooting, much in the same rooms, and not because of the acting which is solid. Broderick Crawford holds his own, apparently with a little help from booze in between scenes, but David Hemmings and Robert Powell are very good indeed. I understand Hemmings also had a bit of a drink problem but it clearly didn't affect his acting here and as for Powell, I have never understood why he never made it so much bigger, maybe he got typecast as Jesus. There is much to enjoy here amid the magic and mayhem and with a convincing performance from the young boy and various shocks and surprises this is well worth a look. There, and I haven't even mentioned that it is Australian or that it is loosely based upon the story of Rasputin and the Czar!
Big Time Operators (1957)it could have been so much better without having to wince each time McKenna or Travers uttered their lines.
20 February 2020
Watching once more a film I remember with such fondness it is sad to relate that although there still are warm and lovely moments there are rather cancelled out by harsher and more crude elements. First of all, the cast is unbalanced, Peter Sellers, still struggling to make the big time is brilliant but horrendously underused. Margaret Rutherford struggles a little, I guess because of her age, but is still a majestic force and Bernard Miles, who was often guilty of embarrassingly overacting, is great here. Unfortunately Bill Travers and particularly Virginia McKenna are dreadful. McKenna was suddenly a big star and her inclusion here must have more to do with box office than any idea that she could play the daft part. Travers is not as bad but take the two out ( they would marry the same year) and bring forward the three well able to deal with comedic roles and develop the role of Leslie Phillips, who is surprisingly good here, and all might have been so much better. As it is, as I say, there is still enough charm here, with the little cinema struggling against its big rival and the loveable trio more interested in movies than money and probably worth it just to watch Sellers in the projection room, but it could have been so much better without having to wince each time McKenna or Travers uttered their lines. Poor title too, The Smallest Show on Earth but probably not as bad as the US one Big Time Operators, which apart from anything else makes it hard to find on IMDb.
American Animals (2018)Very rare and illuminating experience
19 February 2020
Such a good film. I felt shattered at the end, as if I had been through some terrible trauma, but exciting all the same, of course. First big surprise here is that this largely American film is directed by an English documentary filmmaker. Second is that the poster and title are just a wee bit misleading. Depicting a real incident in Kentucky we accompany four students on a mission to steal some rare books. Involving an excellent Evan Peters as leader of the group and also featuring the actual four from the original incident freshly released from jail. I have never seen anything like this as we slip from acted to real and back mixing and matching dialogue with the one character talking to himself at one point. Very involving throughout and very imaginatively shot, this leads to the most incredible heist. I'm not sure my heart has ever beat as fast and the mixture of fear, excitement, relief and horror was quite incredible. Most of this is down to the fact that the filmmaking technique used tends to draw you in personally and breaks down the so called fourth wall and as in a dream (or nightmare!) a large part of you is actually mentally engaged in the action. Inside as opposed to outside. Very rare and illuminating experience when the urge of four kids to do something different and make something of themselves tips over into something unstoppable.
Parasite (2019)a very capable film maker here who needs to get himself a decent script writer
18 February 2020
One of director, Bong Joon Ho's favourite cinematic ploys is to mix up the genres. I remember being most unhappy watching his earlier Host (2006) when a perfectly acceptable horror film was interspersed with social comment on the various family members back home. There are great films and great genre films and I can enjoy both but they are different animals. Mr Ho seems to want to do away with the thoughtful script and writing needed for the former and use a mixing of the genre to make up for lack of depth. With Parasite we have, for about an hour, a very decent story building, even if it is becoming more and more far fetched. The big surprise certainly surprised me but not as much as the change that then befall the film and my mind began to wander as all the seriousness fell away. We have a very capable film maker here who needs to get himself a decent script writer. Writing is clearly not his forte and his urge to slip off piste needs, in my opinion, to be restrained so that his wondrous cinematic chemistry can cook away without losing the plot.
The Tin Drum (1979)a mesmerising performance
18 February 2020
Even if I was not quite as stunned watching this once more, so many years after a video watch, it is still a brave effort and well worth seeing. Volker Schorndorff does a good job recreating the various Polish locales although the Blu ray does seem to show up the sets as rather bright and over polished with brand new posters slapped about. Apart from the magic of the original Gunter Grass novel, the most amazing thing here is the performance drawn from young David Bennett. Born in 1966 he looks far younger than he is and convinces as the three year old who never grows up. Well, maybe he seems more like five but it is a mesmerising performance, helped perhaps by having his constant prop, that inimitable tin drum. Charles Aznavour, in another pivotal role, is the Jewish toy shop proprietor who supplies and befriends the young lad. There are moving and surprisingly frank sexual scenes but inevitably we are moving through time towards the horrors of the second world war and the denouement as depicted here with that war's end. Grass's book goes further and very much makes the controversial but indisputable point that they are the same Germans who later go on to rebuild the nation (with lots of help) and then to dominate the 'new' Europe.
Aiyoku no wana (1973)infamous leading gangster here is in fact a semi automaton double act
16 February 2020Warning: Spoilers
For those unused to Japanese cinema, the 'pink' film phenomena of the 70s will seem particularly strange and to those, like me, used to both, this one is particularly strange. 'Pink' films are what in the west we might call 'blue films' but instead of being made for nothing with regard to nothing (except dosh) and thrust into seedy red light district cinemas to rot, the Japanese equivalent became an opportunity for aspiring or novice film makers to experiment, push the envelope or generally get into the business by doing whatever they fancy as long as it were peppered with sex. This one directed by the writer of the innovative Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1970) and uses some of the tropes of the earlier film and trashes others. Lots of gratuitous sex (beautifully photographed), lots of shootings (beautifully photographed) and the introduction of a rather strange gangster No.1 with a mission to kill our hero (the one who had previously been doing the shooting). The infamous leading gangster here is in fact a semi automaton double act. One is a male dressed like a killer from a film noir movie and the other his doll with a very weird voice. They threaten our hero and his sexual partner and eventually succeed in having their way, as it were.
Sideways (2004)I find this likeable, amusing and involving
16 February 2020
I find this likeable, amusing and involving and returned to watch it again with feelings of warmth akin to meeting an old friend. Scanning other reviews I see that this is far from a universal view and whilst for many this is a delight, for others it is a tedious bore featuring unlikeable characters. My feelings towards the film have not changed drastically since that earlier theatrical release screening and certainly I still feel there would be another time when I would welcome watching it again. Why I 'like' it so much has to do with the stimulating dialogue, principally and then the believability of the situation and juxtaposition of the characters. Some have suggested that the two are not only 'boring' but that they would never be friends. This seems to suggest a belief in the ridiculous notion that we can only like people exactly the same as ourselves and that 'different' people are almost by definition 'boring' because they behave differently. Clearly it is a stretch to believe the two main protagonists here longed to be with one another for a tour of the Californian wineries, but then we are told (however differently their lives have become) they were school chums and formed a solid bond at that time. One of the main reasons I like the film is that it accepts and understands this concept, even if, as here the inevitable unravelling comes to pass. I find the film 'amusing' and not 'funny' but I think that is because we are presented with a series of ironic or inevitably divisive incidents rather than a series of gags. That the extremely well performed participants in the action convey the essence of the film so well I find myself drawn into this 'reality' despite myself. Like many viewers, I don't like anyone presented here, except perhaps Virginia Masden's character, but then I don't have to sleep with them or go on holiday with them, I can just sit back and enjoy a slice of life that is just that little bit different and therefore, surely, by definition, interesting and involving.
The Clowns (1970 TV Movie)the circus tapestry that reflects Fellini's past films, future films and his life itself
15 February 2020
I had never seen this wonderful film before. I was aware that it had been made for TV, was about clowns, obviously and I had heard reports of terrible picture and sound. So, my blu-ray has been sitting around for some time until, prompted by a viewing of Fellini's first success, we decided to give this a go. It is fantastic. Clearly the quality issues have been dealt with and it would seem that the TV origins meant nothing. If the director was taking it easy after Satyricon, you could have fooled me. This has a magical and majestic extended opening sequence and an astonishing extended ending but in-between it is still all a swirl of exciting, amusing and emotional cinematic wonder. Ostensibly a documentary (we even see the director seemingly working with his crew) but there are illusions upon illusions and even the lovely interviews with elderly historic clowns from back in the day are so woven within the circus tapestry that reflects Fellini's past films, future films and his life itself, that we simply gasp and sigh as we share the maestro's own obvious delight.
Listen Up Philip (2014)Bravo for such brave and non PC film making
12 February 2020
This is a very dark comedy but so dark that whilst I feel sure it will be possible to laugh out loud on subsequent viewings, a nervous smile is about that can be managed on a first view. Director, Alex Ross Perry clearly has a most jaundiced view of the New York hip and the City's literary elite in particular. Jason Schwartzman plays a frighteningly self contained and angry young bully of a celebrated author who comes under the wing of an older, even more celebrated version of himself, played possibly even more terrifyingly by Jonathan Pryce. Completely uncompromising with only the slightest respite thanks to female support from Elisabeth Moss and Kristen Ritter who have to bear the brunt of the egocentric and domineering ramblings of the aforementioned gentlemen. As I say this will be something to laugh at next time but on first viewing is harrowing but intellectually stimulating thanks to wonderful writing and acting. Bravo for such brave and non PC film making.
The Lighthouse (I) (2019)Unpleasant AND overwritten, poorly acted, badly photographed and pretentious
11 February 2020
Ye gods! A pal of mine warned that this was unpleasant. Undaunted I stepped into an almost empty auditorium to endure something a whole lot worse. Unpleasant AND overwritten, poorly acted, badly photographed and pretentious. The dubious acting comprising spouting a pastiche of Moby Dick and Rime of the Ancient Mariner and drunken yelling might have been the fault of the script. But there was really no excuse for the pretentiousness of the b/w academy ratio shooting, or if there was I missed it. Measured and bleak I can deal with but tedious and ostentatiously schoolboy like I cannot. As we slipped into the homo erotism of the second half I felt as if slapped in the face for having put up with the first forty minutes or so.
Non-Fiction (2018)I enjoyed it and if there is not much story to relate there is pleasure enough
10 February 2020
I have, of late, become quite a fan of the films of Olivier Assayas, though I was put off this, his last to show in London, by some very iffy reviews. It is, however, fine. I enjoyed it and if there is not much story to relate there is pleasure enough, for me anyway, listening to the various conversations. Conversations about the writing and reading of books and each others wives. The French title is Doubles Vies which translates directly as Double Lives and is perfect, so much so that it amazes me that it was ever changed for the US/UK market. Surprisingly devoid of politics, which is a surprise considering some of the director's previous films. The only real reference is to a disgraced would be leader and comments made suggesting people go into politics to satisfy their own ego rather than to effect change and perhaps this is Assayas' justified snide political comment.
The Children's Hour (1961)The early 60s were a very good time for Shirley MacLaine
9 February 2020
The early 60s were a very good time for Shirley MacLaine and she made some fine films putting in some very fine performances, including this one. Here she co-stars with Audrey Hepburn and both are young teachers running a modest girls' school. An unconvincing Hepburn is supposedly madly in love with a dull James Garner and fireworks it certainly isn't. But maybe the casting was intentional because those fireworks lay elsewhere as a naughty schoolgirl with the help of another naughty schoolgirl create a rumour that causes much distress all round. Lillian Hellman's script concerning a supposed (or real) lesbian affair between the two leads makes for some decent dialogue and some tense moments. We are just about fed up with the histrionics with the girls when this becomes more of an adult drama and interest is held until a rather surprising end.
Orphan (2009)I enjoyed much of this but there were a few silly moments
8 February 2020
I enjoyed much of this but there were a few silly moments and I feel if the film had been cut down to 90 minutes we could have got rid of those embarrasing bits and made the whole ting tighter. The acting is fine, especially the two girls and that of Isabelle Fuhrman, who at times seems to be carrying the film, is remarkable. Inevitably, perhaps there are unfortunately those times, as in 'gas lighting' films where we sit frustrated urging those on screen to notice the obvious to no avail and then on we go as everything gets more and more embroiled.
The Night Has Eyes (1942)romance was the name of the game
6 February 2020
This has one or two decent moments, particularly the sequences on the moors and the early sequence on the train where for a minute or two this looked as if it might become a little risqué. For the most part, however, despite the presence of James Mason this is for the most part pretty preposterous. There are hints that this might take off into horror or at least thriller territory but, I guess, this was matinee fare and romance was the name of the game.
The Insect Woman (1963)this has a wider aim of attack
6 February 2020
Made directly after Pigs and Battleships, pretty much a furious diatribe against the occupying American forces, this has a wider aim of attack. Indeed this angry young man, at the forefront of the then Japanese New Wave, seems to take a swipe at everyone. He is, understandably, particularly cynical as regards the treatment of women but also of the way those women seem to not only accept their subservient position but help to perpetuate the horrors with their own connivence. As is so often the case with Japanese cinema, with so little knowledge of the cultural background it is difficult to fully appreciate what might be going on here. Certainly Imamura is still pushing against the old accepted ways of his country's cinema and with stop frames, screen titles and a rough and tumble technique that flies in the face of tradition. Not an easy watch but there is enough here with a time span that traverses the first half of the 20th century from the First World War to the confusion of Korea.
An absolute one off with possible nods to Naked Lunch.
6 February 2020
Hunter S Thompson was a great writer/journalist who loved to play with words and structure but who maybe liked to play with drugs even more. Terry Gilliam's screen version of this book is so uncompromising from the very start that some (like me!) will find it difficult to get into. For me it was only the fantastic colours and surreal happenings that intrigued me enough to stay with the worrying antics of Johnny Depp, as the writer, and Benico del Toro, his assistant, as this whirlwind of psychedelia unfolds. Eventually I was won over by the underlying charm of Depp's performance and able to enjoy this incredibly worrying and exciting ride. An absolute one off with possible nods to Naked Lunch.
Gun Crazy (1950)But this is something else and essential viewing.
5 February 2020
This starts with a bit of background and the childhood of Mr Gun Crazy, okay but worryingly schmaltzy, but worry not we are soon off and boy does this go. John Dall has presence if a little wooden here but Peggy Cummins is wonderful. Why oh why did she not do more noir films? She is everything the bad heroine should be and All no match for her at all. Apparently both stars do their own driving so for the fantastic street sequences we are sat in the back as they roar around. Naturally all is doomed but this is one hell of a ride. Recently watched another Joseph H Lewis film, My Name Is Julia Ross and loved that too. But this is something else and essential viewing.
Separate Tables (1958)the most marvellous presentation of a beautifully written piece of work.
4 February 2020
It appears that this film is the result of several re-writes and collaborations all derived from the original and most controversial Terence Rattigan stage play, which was itself a sublimation of (mainly homosexual) unspeakable sexual affairs. Nevertheless the result is stunning, even today. Perhaps more so today as we can appreciate how things have changed and yet still recognise some of the attitudes and beliefs made clear here. Burt Lancaster, who did so much to get this project off the ground, is fantastic. I winced at his grotesque 'drunken' entrance but from there on he is a joy to watch. And to listen to for the dialogue here is a dream. Strangely enough this only seems 'theatrical' when we step outside, but for the most part the action is inside the modest Bournemouth hotel and the script produces tingling on the spine. Wendy Hiller as the proprietor weaves in and out the various guests and their horrors as we feature most prominently on David Niven and Deborah Kerr, two broken souls who just might make it. Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth play the more glamorous couple but are clearly in no less a fragile state. Gladys Cooper plays mother to the poor wretched and virtually destroyed young girl played by Kerr and acts as the conscious of the hotel. Or so she would have them believe. Riveting, with many of the actors giving one of their greatest performances, although in the end, with the help of very sure footed direction from Delbert Mann this is the most marvellous presentation of a beautifully written piece of work.
Poison Pen (1939)A pleasant enough and very English watch
3 February 2020
Slight but likeable, cusp of the War, b&w 'B' movie made in Elstree, almost entirely in the studio but creating a believable enough feel of that archetypal English village of the period. The warm glow of the recognisable and friendly shopkeeper, priest and neighbours. But also the claustrophobia and the restrictions as the values and values of the many that can restrict the behaviour of the few. Here all is exasperated by the vindictive actions of the writer of poison pen letters. I have no idea whether Clouzot saw this before he made his classic Le Corbeau during the ensuing War but whilst this does not have quite the same sinister undertones of the French film this is still powerful enough with what one reviewer describes as 'several disturbing incidents'. The direction and acting are solid with plenty of recognisable old favourites but Flora Robson is particularly effective and if I have never understood the appeal of Robert Newton, he is prominently billed and certainly had his fans. It is interesting to see Ann Todd holding her own amidst distinguished company and about to become a star herself. A pleasant enough and very English watch.