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Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Someone thought this a credible examination of what could happen if we don't take Climate Change seriously. Seriously, could anything be further from the truth? We all know the climate is changing, it's been changing since creation but the warming science remains challenged by a vast number of the world's top scientists. It's difficult to know where to start with this catastrophe of a movie – yes, it has some good looking CGI but what's the benefit if the story is as silly as a kids matinee film from the 50s?
We see tents that don't freeze while every building in the entire city of NY have frozen over – we see a public payphone that still works even though its submerged under sub-zero waters, we see people being kept alive by the burning of the pages of some books (while they are surrounded by wooden furniture!) We see a global weather pattern that alters in a matter of hours instead of years (centuries). We see people being able to run and perform exhausting feats without any breathing difficulties whatsoever.
We see, oh, why bother... for those looking for mindless disaster entertainment, it might work, provided you can turn a blind eye to a ton of cartoonish scientific inaccuracies. No wonder today's kids are reduced to anxiety and fear about their environment and see no hope for tomorrow. Pity they aren't able to recognise when a democratic propaganda piece is selling Al Gore's suspect ‘science' for the benefit of very rich (getting richer) global companies. Perhaps all that's missing is Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead. Suppose we couldn't expect much more from this director.
After seeing a trailer I resisted seeing this downbeat British so-called ‘thriller' for many years but recently gave in. Can't say it was worth it, if anything, it simply shows that some audiences were over-indulging in the new 'freedoms' within production codes of the 70s. This overly bleak, overly brutal, overly immoral product is a sign of its time and about as perverse as it could get. The main characters motivation is poorly developed and unconvincingly drawn – we have a trained killer who ruthlessly uses everyone, his friends included, to get his way. His totally soulless, uncaring nature makes him as unlikeable as the sordid characters he's out to kill. So, unless you are a criminal lowlife there's not one soul you can identify with in this painful story. His violent treatment of women is as sick as the very situations he's supposed to be ‘defending' them from, those being; sexual exploitation via pornography with murder thrown in - potty writing to be sure.
The moviemakers are clearly enjoying inflicting the same level of grotesqueries on women as they hypocritically claim to be ‘combating'. Beautiful Brit Ekland is again reduced to the thankless and pitiful role of a sordid gangster's moll – no help to her career whatsoever. The bad guys are all so obviously bad as to be borderline ‘caricatures' - we are being manipulated into disliking them just so we can ‘enjoy' their violent demises. This overworked plot element can either be done well or end up as the silly sensationalism we see here.
Michael Cain claims his ‘super' cool killer was based on some of his own family and friends (nice!) claiming he may have ended up being the same if not for the movies. His violent tough guy fights are so poorly choreographed and edited as to make them rather unbelievable. ‘Carter' gets raves from some but is essentially just another sordid seventies movie like ‘Villain' (Burton) and others in the new age ‘R' Certificate ilk.
The strange fact-based story about "Reverend" Harry Powers, written by Davis Grubb, was turned into this equally strange film by first-time producer Paul Gregory. Gregory gave the directorial responsibilities to his friend Charles Laughton and the task of adapting the screenplay to Pulitzer Prize -winning author James Agee (AKF: "A Death in the Family "an autobiographical novel). Laughton claimed part-writing credits but this has been heavily disputed since the finding of Agee's original screenplay - showing the film to be shot as written by Agee. While Laughton has chosen to give his 1955 film (set in the 30s) the look of something that may have been produced in the silent era – he sometimes adds the odd unintentional laugh – these come via curious characters dotting the equally strange sets and situations. It was also evident Laughton had trouble with the kids.
Perhaps the real power of this bizarre work should be credited to Director of Photography Stanley Cortez. Cortex has fused the film with striking visual atmosphere - adding an ethereal mood to the already dark story of a psychologically deranged ‘preacher' serial killer. Whoever called the shots, between the two of them, they certainly left us with a haunting visual treat – who could ever forget the long blond hair flowing within the river currents, intertwined with the long wisps of river growth! The casting of stars from the silent era also gives the film an older look but there are undoubtedly many superb scenes to be enjoyed throughout this, at times, unsettling story.
There's an effective music score by Walter Schumann along with an odd casting choice of Mitchum as the hideous ‘reverend' but at least the horror elements were subtle and not in-your-face like the current cheapies some have become used too.
This story about anti-social writer Lee Israel starts off OK and looks proficient enough – with neat direction, good Cinematography, and very capable performances. Melissa McCarthy convinces as Israel, trouble is, the two central characters simply offer nothing for us to like about them. Lee is a blatant and unrepentant thief in the form of a serial forger. She forges letters from famous show bis people, selling them to stores specialising in such items. Her partner in crime, played by Richard E. Grant is an equally unlikeable homosexual with no moral compass whatsoever.
Together they con even those who offer them genuine understanding and friendship and hardly seem to care. As good as it looks; it soon becomes tiresome as spending time with these people is totally unrewarding. Might suit those who like character studies of characterless subjects. By the way, language is as you might expect, over the top.
As its title suggests this morbid Russian movie claims to be attempting to draw attention to a national crisis – the desperate plight of children who struggle to cope with self-obsessed parents and an uncaring national police dept. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev and co-writer Oleg Negin (both also responsible for ‘Leviathan' '14 an equally depressing Russian movie) are again taking a savage swipe at Russian institutional corruption – they've used the same format for this, their latest collaboration. The poster advertising suggests this movie will study the impact on the child during a heavy marital separation. Instead, these collaborators spend so much time with perverse voyeuristic scenes of both parents' extramarital sex lives – leaving the suffering of the poor child, mostly to our imagination (if they were truly serious, perhaps this should have been reversed?)
This is just one aspect that tends to put the focus of their movie in mostly the wrong places. Another is its obsessive ‘promo' style study of a volunteer group of missing-child-hunters who up-stage the indifference of the Russian police. This at times feels to be from another movie, and is the sort of ‘story' telling best served as a documentary; perhaps even inspiring more social impact than an enacted drama. In the beginning, the young lad has one or two strong scenes; but the rest highlights the soulless parents, and simply keeps telling us what we already know, stretched over two long hours.
The majority of the dialogue has the parents viciously swearing, and being brutally vulgar towards each other in front of their son - when this is not happening (which is not often) we see them constantly obsessing over their mobile phones (a worldwide phenomenon) and being selfishly absorbed. As with Leviathan, these collaborators seem to single out Christians (as if they are the chief perpetrators of these situations) along with the Russian government for its uncaring bureaucracy. Corruption in Government institutions often needs to be exposed but might also be done in a less heavy-handed manner. Cinematographer, Mikhail Krichman sets up stylish images and gives this movie its best asset. The open-ended ending is also a let down with the last shot being a little unbelievable.
Professional reviewer Emily Yoshida of Vulture.com has been honest enough to call this work out, citing it as, Quote; "A dour film with unlikeable characters and a lack of focus to make a coherent point" (I tend to agree) Otherwise, the usual Awards and accolades proliferate as might be expected in this business of promoting a product.
If there's a movie or its stars, that's lost to the late ‘90's it's this one and its crew. This grotty swear-fest is so typical of Matt Damon and Edward Norton that it plays out like a cliché – they simply walk through their roles emulating themselves. If you're a fan of these somewhat overrated cardboard-cut-outs then you may be ‘entertained' (although it's stretching the word). And, they get plenty of financial assistance for their ole mate, Harvey Weinstein. Nasty characters and sleazy situations
overrun this miserable experience - leaving the feeling of needing a shower by the end. Viewers addicted to gambling or card-shark movies, may feel at home with these witless lowlifes but ultimately they prove unworthy of empathy or concern.
Some may even feel they've just spent 2 Hrs with characters the world would be better off without. Also featured in the acting high-jinks is John Malkovich, who overdoes his chocolate biscuit eating (supposedly ‘Russian') card-shark-guru, to borderline laughable proportions. John Turturro on the other hand (no pun intended) fares best at attempting to build on a character, along with interesting Gretchen Mol as the suffering girlfriend.
For diehard gambling movie fans only.
French Born director Yann Demange, has created as intense a drama as could be expected within a documentary style movie - etched out of a real life and death situation from the pathetic streets of civil war torn Belfast. The ridiculously contemptuous hatred of religiously opposed inhabitants – living at close quarters of each other – shows human foolishness at its gut wrenching ugliest. Demange's intelligent direction and refusal to over exaggerate, combined with Scottish writer, Gregory Burke's angst-ridden, believable script, ensures each nerve wracking situation propels the viewer on a breathlessly desperate journey of survival. At times it's difficult to keep up with the double and triple crosses (including inept mistakes) as each party pits itself against its assumed enemy.
In the end of time all are reduced, without quarter, to fools of the saddest most ignorant order. Performances are of the highest order, and Tat Radcliffe's photography combines handheld camera shots that don't make the viewer feel nauseous, David Holmes pensive music score moves believably within the action. While laced with coarse language and violence its recommended for adults who admire thoughtful, hardnosed, true to life drama that tells it as it is - without dim-witted embellishments. It also thankfully, does not outstay its welcome.
While Russian Police/Law Court corruption is a good topic to take aim at - this movie's attempts may not render a great deal of difference. It comes across as lacking convincing continuity or situations. A Child's mother dumps her baby at an orphanage then comes back 16years later and attempts to reclaim him but is refused, on grounds of being proven completely unfit to care for him. Still, somehow, she manages to simply walk out with him in toe. The lacklustre script takes such story liberties without being all that believable or genuinely involving. Seems she wants her son to be a road accident pawn to fraudulently set-up big ‘accident' claims. Our so-called mother, then proceeds to walk around the house wearing scanty underwear day and night (muttering something about it helps to keep the house clean!) Cheap sensationalistic writing more like it - bringing on suggestions of an incestuous set-up. At one stage, while coming home from a drunken party, she asks her son to hold her up while she urinates in the street, this comes complete with close-ups of pee falling between her legs onto the pathway (what did we do to deserve so many ‘vital-story-element' details!!).
The resultant court cases, even though they demonstrate unforgivable corruption seem somewhat unconvincingly set-up so it's difficult to feel much outrage - without feeling manipulated as a viewer. Director and cameraman have chosen to work with dimly lit, cheap wobble-cam handheld camera shots, often having the look of a film school student's work. This was made with funding from the Ministry of Culture of Russia but looks rather poor in its ‘cultural' output. With all the elements of terrible corruption being examined, this topic might have been better served if treated as a documentary, as is, what could have been worthy comment comes across as shallow movie making.
It's not a long movie but feels rather endless. Some may last the distance without reaching for the remotes double speed device but, could be doubtful if all that many.
Stylish above and beyond expectation this Polish oddity has no cheap handheld wobble cam to drag it down to the level of average psychological thriller & yet, average psychological thriller it ultimately is. Talented French-born Cinematographer Piotr Jaxa has a long list of shorts and documentaries on his list of achievements & at times, this one looks as if he were working for the Swiss Tourist Bureau. Piotr fills the screen with delightful eye candy views of sweeping Swiss countryside - tending to steal the show completely. Polish director Greg Zglinski is following closely the slick style his fellow countryman Roman Polanski perfected with ‘The Tennant' - along with several other movies about unhinged characters. With a bizarre script by Jorg Kalt (who curiously took his own life soon after he wrote this) the viewer is taken on a mind-bending trip into spot-the-crazy or did-it-happen-or-not territory.
Problem here is with little or no relief from the mystery it can become tiresome. A lacklustre music score adds almost nothing to the mixed up goings-on and only those who enjoy a good looking - but basically going nowhere movie will be left fully awake. For a select audience only, and If you think you've worked it all out, take another look and ask yourself again. Oh, some may enjoy the strange looking talking cat that comes and goes to taunt people with some murderous suggestions.
The main plot of this curious movie about a bank robbery is immediately intriguing, then a little baffling, till it goes on to become perhaps a tad outlandish. There's enough involving interest to make you stay with it but if you like to analyse your movies - it may not always hold up (no pun intended). The cast is well chosen and carry their parts admirably; the direction, photography, and music keep it flowing onwards to its somewhat odd ending. While the screenplay definitely has a certain flair - it maybe gets just a little too clever for its own good - leaving those thinking about it wondering just how some situations might have been possible to achieve? Never the less, there's some clever twists within the smart writing of this sleeper that will demand your full attention.
There's a lot of suspense and thanks to a particularly psychotic character, more nastiness than might have been altogether needed. Christopher Plummer convincingly plays the frightening psychotic with Elliott Gould very good as the seemingly mild-mannered, nerdy front desk bank teller. It's an interesting cat and mouse thriller with some shocks along the way. The movie-makers have certainly fleshed out certain moral failings within the modern banking sector, and given some recent worldwide banking staff activities, have served up a well-deserved hit
This Warner Bros bio-pic is certainly a cut above the average of its type and year. Dorothy Bakers searing novel is adapted for the screen by Carl Forman (High Noon) and Edmund H. North (Patton). Versatile Kirk Douglas again confirms his tour de force range of emotions as a young Trumpet player (Rick Martin) on the way up and also on the skids. He's also in love with the wrong woman! Sultry Lauren Bacall is perfect as the wrong ‘female' - a slinky rich psychiatry student and destructive gender confused type - who dabbles in everything and is generally unsuccessful at them all. Doris Day giving a semi-dramatic turn does very well as the dance band singer who warms to the ‘lost' trumpeter.
Douglas brings pathos, and power to his character (loosely based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke) especially during the breakdown scenes – but he's perhaps a tad overconfident a performer to fully convince as a clumsy, low self-esteem type (this could also be partly due to Curtiz's direction) Juano Hernandez gives a standout performance as the sympathetic jazz muso who takes the young orphan under his wing – freely giving him vital tuition that guarantees the naturally talented, but disadvantaged lad - a priceless introduction to a career in the field of professional music.
Michael Curtiz delivers his usual confident directorial professionalism but perhaps the real power is found in the dazzling look of this film. Superb director of photography Ted McCord fills every scene with his strong stylised visuals – injecting a moody power into every situation, also making the grand cast look especially magnificent. Best of all, is his stunning use of outdoor locations, featuring richly dramatic shots of parts of N.Y. that has since passed into memory. Not enough can be said of the power this combination of McCord and Curtiz bring to this un-miss-able 1950 picture!
Striking musical direction and score by Ray Heindorf, with a shamefully uncredited additional score by the great Max Steiner - featuring the playing of trumpet virtuoso's Harry James and Jimmy Zito, make for an unforgettable dramatic musical treat. Great production values, art direction, sets, editing, wrap together an eye-popping, ear candy experience for lovers of the era. The upbeat ending could have been dropped but is not as bad as some may say within a ‘loosely' based bio. Hoagy Carmichael is unforgettable as piano player/narrator ‘Smoke' ~ with young Orley Lindgren (under My Skin ‘50, Alias Nick Beal'49) most impressive playing Rick as a boy (whatever happened to Orley?)
The W.B. DVD offers good images and that special W.B. sound
What was the Disney Corporation thinking? We would not have given this turkey any room on the shelf – never mind it getting beyond the pre-production script stage. This black, bleak, misfire is surely one of the worst examples of a ‘Christmas' movie we have ever seen. Harry Dean Stanton makes for one of the creepiest ‘Angels' imaginable – roaming dark streets, chatting up little kids and mothers in a an appallingly ‘suspect' manner (not Harry's fault just a BAD script.)
At first, the family's financially depleted domestic situation looked as it was being covered in a realistic (non-glossy ‘Hollywood' style manner). Then came the desperate criminal element, with an armed hold-up, a stolen car (with a child on the back seat) but then it got even worse with this poor family's Dad being shot dead! From herein, it all goes belly- up with ludicrously glib North Pole interception – yes, you guessed it, write a letter to Santa and in the ‘nick' of time - he will make it all well again! Perhaps Walt was turning in his grave about now - just as we were squirming in our seats! No Faith, no honest warmth, nothing to believe in, just wretched soulless writing. Stay away from this ‘magic' least you want to go home feeling ill - check out the more accurate, disappointed audience reactions. Waste of an interesting cast (the only thing that drew us in the first case)
Good performances, photography and music score, almost save this interesting subject from its badly developed script and poorish direction (Shana Feste). Two young students do two foolish things on the first day they meet. (1) Have fist time intercourse (unprotected) without knowing anything about each other! and (2) Park in the middle of the highway to talk! Resulting in life-altering consequences. The movie suffers from too many loose ends and unlikely situations to neatly tie-up its associated stories - as well as so-called ‘trendy', foul-mouthed Hollywood dialogue.
The stars do the best they can to breathe life into material offering some interesting but not always convincing relationships - with certain situations leaving more questions than answers. A difficult subject such as this needed a more mature writer and director. Viewers who look at movies in ‘high emotion' mode may not notice the flaws. Others might be disappointed.
Only a Writer the calibre of Edith Wharton (The Old Maid) who also lived through the era could so magnificently bring to life such a challenging story. Wharton, being the first woman to be awarded the converted Pulitzer prize is not to be taken lightly when being considered for adaption to the screen, Director Terence Davies adapts her novel with much respect, and while it can be at times difficult to navigate the original's ebb and flow – with its many complex relationships, it always remains compelling. Those conversant with the novel will have the advantage of being familiar with characters names and relationships.
This is a time when a woman living within upper society circles was tasked with the prime challenge of finding a rich man to marry. Our lead character, Lily Bart lives with her wealthy Aunt – this places her in the enviable position of meeting such men through numerous sumptuous dinner functions. Unfortunately Lily is a little spoiled for choice and not very bright when it comes to carefully assess both the money and men markets. We follow her as she navigates the fine line between knowing her heart and following her (perceived) financial requirements – both decisions needing astute wisdom but, does she have this ability?
Many misunderstandings, and ‘friends' betrayals, lead her on a tenuous, interwoven path, intended to secure her essential but ever-elusive personal happiness. Director of Photography Remi Adefarasin (Amazing Grace ‘05) creates truly lush images, capturing the gorgeous settings, costumes and women, with dazzling style (perhaps too much?). He deservedly went on to become the first English born black person to be nominated for an Academy Award. British director Davies and his cameraman bring a BBC look and feel to this international production but it retains the novelist's perfect Americana to embed it in its true N.Y. homeland. A tragic journey, with a well-balanced sense of the sexuality of the day – never ending up in the sensationalised land of some other American films set within this timeframe - especially some TV varieties. Performances are first class with Gillian Armstrong absolutely superb!
Classic quality, shot in UK, set in USA, and well worth a second look for discerning viewers.
Cry Of The City – Wrongly Overlooked
Not knowing what to expect from this little known movie, I was continually surprised by many superbly handled sequences offering above average involvement and suspense. Victor Mature is perfect as the dedicated detective admirably seeking to bring down cunning killer Richard Conti. Here we are treated to the results that can be created when a well written story and screenplay, a superb director, and a professional director of photography, are brought together – creating a moody noir that continually turns new corners within a familiar theme. Among several scenes to stand out is one featuring Hope Emerson (‘Mother' from Peter Gunn TV) as a ruthless Masseuse, two scenes with Berry Kroeger as Niles, a sleazy Lawyer - the escape walk from a prison hospital -along with numerous location street scenes as they looked in '48. With an interesting cast, this seems to have come and gone in its day but now looks even better. Well worth a watch or tracking down a well-transferred DVD.
Sommersby is difficult to Identify With. The plot of this glossy remake of a based-on-fact story leaves much to be desired – pacing is poor and too many situations just don't hold up. Most performances are good but its Jody Fosters film all the way. A big-budget was allocated to this production but somehow it never looks as convincing as it should. Romantics might enjoy the situations but anyone looking for believability might be better off seeking out the original.
Still, good entertainment for the easily pleased.
When will the Australian Film Commission wake up and recognise scripts that will not make money for the industry?. Here's yet another Aust movie project that proves this point - so many feature trashy themes involving incest, paedophilia or sordid adultery. This one tries to incorporate them all - then suggests a compromise that simply doesn't hold up. It basically features the life of a foulmouthed topless bar worker, and unmarried mother, and her teenage daughter - as they move through one challenge to the next. One suspect scene has the daughter willing to sleep with a ‘friend' even though they both think they are brother and sister!
The South Australian coastal locations are good looking but all too familiar within other local movies (with similar themes). The performers all work hard but the script lets them down. The whole thing tries too hard to be arty but with little quality substance - it just ends up like so many others that people just rarely go out to see.
Offered some promise but ultimately led to very little.
At the outset, this good looking project promised to be a grand comment on the foolishness and greed that has taken over aspects of the modern art fraternity - instead, as it progressed, it sadly became precisely what it set out to parody. This is very unfortunate as it shows us the filmmaker may not have been particularly brave enough to deliver a focused message. Cinematographer and director work well together, turning in a visually excellent movie but this is far from good enough. With a script that ultimately offers little commitment, shape or true soul – it simply becomes a series of stylish but poorly connected sequences - pretentiously shouting to the viewer "look at my savvy creativity".
Come the half-way mark of this unnecessarily over-long, disconnected effort, it becomes painfully obvious that we, the audience, are the ones being conned. Performances are uniformly good but, as for listing several international actors as stars - this is simply dishonest marketing - call them what they are: ‘Guest Stars'.
Then, we have the director/writer/co-editor indulging his fetishes by using (or is it abusing) actress Elizabeth Moss for a gratuitous sex scene that's initiated from simplistic ‘c' word utterances. This segment goes on to simply culminate in one (of many) plot dead-ends - tending to look rather obviously added for its sensationalistic elements, then ultimately, coming across as simply perverse. Another major sequence features a man violently ‘aping' an Ape which goes on far too long - only to also lead to yet another dead-end (with the truly shocking end result left hanging).
Many will be seduced by this low approach to ‘high-art' (just as the awards groups seem to be) but looking at the bulk of user comments (caringly penned by those who bought tickets and invested valuable time to see this so-called ‘parody')...it becomes abundantly clear many observant viewers were awake to its superficial deceptions. Several mainstream critics were also honest enough to call it out for what it was.
While some might rave, for equally as many, it's just another disappointing cop-out.
For a film in 1949 to take on this theme, and do it so reasonably well is admirable indeed. Many today don't realise just how ugly racism was during this era and how difficult it was, not only to produce a movie such as this, but also how near impossible it was to get them distributed. Many theatres, shamefully, would simply not run them.
While the first few minutes have a dated feel to the production style, it picks up surprisingly well as it moves into its challenging (and factual) black-passing-for-white story. Some reviewers, perhaps understandably, still get upset because producers were casting white actors to play blacks (or ethnics) in these early racially-themed films but, they fail to understand that there were not enough well known ethnic performers available. The moviemakers then had the added difficulty of selling the final product – this was never an easy task, with movies being expensive to make, and many cinemas refusing to book them. Things may be different now, but back then, these films simply would not have been made if following ‘idealist' notions.
Mell Ferrer is good in his role, playing real-life Dr Scott Mason Carter (name change) with a marvellous performance from Richard Hyland as his son (Hyland is sadly little known as he took his own life at age 41) Producer Louis De Rochemont, whose background was in producing news programs – infuses his movie with a ‘semi-documentary' approach giving it a more realistic feel. All performances are top flight and the use of every-day looking (un-glamorised) associate cast members helps. Stage actress, Beatrice Pearson is good as the Dr's Wife in her second, of only two movie appearances. Writer, William White's sociological commentary has been thoughtfully adapted for the screen and treats its daring subject with sensitivity and respect – without over-dramatising or sensationalising its controversial subject. William J.Miller's strong B/W cinematography (Teresa'51) has a noir look and feel, adding stark moodiness to the more dramatic situations. Cannes film festival nominee William L. Werker (‘He Walked By Night' also ‘49) earnestly directs.
The image and sound quality of the Warner Archive DVD are thankfully better than some other M.O.D. transfers around and worth buying.
This is an Aussie copy of an ‘oater' – an outback ‘western' with stylish photography to lure the tourist trade – accompanied by the now expected ‘borrowings' from Tarantino and Spaghetti Leone. It's a blood-spattered story scratched out by Nick Cave (possibly between one of several dry-out sessions) and offers a range of utterly despicable characters. Some of whom seem to change personas along with scenes changes as they navigate gaping holes in credibility, and much crude language. Cave also penned some forgettable songs that tend to add little, Warren Ellis's score though, comes across a little better.
Director John Hillcoat (Ghosts of the Civil Dead) seems more intent on creating style than keeping track of the story threads or continuity. It rambles on with slow, uneven pacing, resulting in an ‘arty' hodgepodge --coming off as little more than a string of sadistic pretensions-- while copying other so-called ‘historical' fictional bloodbaths.
Those who are diehard fans of Cave's morbidity or who like style-over-substance won't be too disappointed but many others will end up very bored or repulsed.