/ October Film Thread
A big Sci Fi movie usually gets me to the cinema, those with an existential theme even more so and, despite Blue Straggler nearly putting me off, I went and was quite impressed
Its not an absolute classic...but it's theme is ambitious and visually it's well worth seeing on the big screen despite its flaws. Pitt is excellent as the troubled lead and holds things together well with his introspection contrasting perfectly with the huge setting; and the cinematography is stunning. The sub-plots, especially some drama on the journey, were a bit forced and overall it did feel heavily edited (I'm guessing test showings had ordinary punters a bit bored), in particular, for me, the opportunity for more visual splendour of slingshots round Jupiter and Saturn and the arrival at Neptune were wasted. However, I must admit that I'm a sucker for any spin on Heart of Darkness, even where the trouble-maker is a potentially deranged dad, who had been a hero but was always distant (Tommy Lee Jones.... who's input also feels a bit squandered).
I lost track of the months so I’ll repost:
The nicest thing I can say about “Judy” is that it is not quite as awful as Bohemian Rhapsody.
Wasn't too impressed with "Ad Astra": a squandered opportunity and vastly overrated on IMDb. Especially frustrating as the first half seemed quite promising.
"The Farewell", on t'other 'and, is most excellent. Well played, beautifully shot and manages to be touching and funny. Highly recommended.
Trying to get to "Joker" today but not expecting the highs of last month which were the final cut of "Apocalypse Now" in IMAX (well worth paying the extra) and "Empire..." with full orchestra. Both well worth seeking out.
"Judge me by my size, do you?"
Even you have to admit that some of the action scenes felt like they had been rejected from a Fast and Furious screenplay for being too ludicrous though
Not quite that bad in my view. It will be nice to view some future directors cut to see if it was indeed heavily changed by the producers. I was bound to like it more than most... Apocalypse Now is a major classic and one of my all time favourites. I will admit I'm puzzled by the glowing average of critical response.
I can’t imagine that the scene where (being careful here not to do much of a spoiler) he gets to continue his journey, was entirely inserted at the behest of some Joel Silver type producer demanding a ludicrous action scene. Regardless of whether or not it was, you have to judge what was presented at your screening, surely, and NOT defend the crap bits by fancifully imagining a different cut.
> However, I must admit that I'm a sucker for any spin on Heart of Darkness
Check out the late 1980s spin/spoof Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle Of Death, starring Shannon Tweed (better known for very soft porn b-movies but actually very effective with some great comic timing playing the “straight-man”), Bill Maher (now a very respected satirical political commentator) and Adrienne Barbeau.
> I was bound to like it more than most...
As it happens, I thought the same of myself.
> Apocalypse Now is a major classic and one of my all time favourites. I will admit I'm puzzled by the glowing average of critical response.
What are you on about now? Ad Astra or Apocalypse Now? Just because there is a really rather tenuous thematic connection between the two, doesn’t mean it makes sense for you to continually treat them as one and the same. It looks a bit lunatic/obsessive to do so. It’s not like it’s Charley Varrick/No Country for Old Men.
> Charley Varrick
Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time.
Re Ad Astra - severe problems with the practicalities of interplanetary travel (remember how long VGR would have had to wait if they had missed the 1970s slot)
Nevertheless I did enjoy the rather slower and sci-fi indulgence of it - I really dislike the fantasy genre and was brought up on the Faber and Faber collections with stories like "The Cold Equations" etc
I would like to thank the Centre for Computing History for puttiong on a Tenth Anniversary showing of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaonVYOTSsk
with some of the actual people represented therein. A hidden gem for geeks.
Quite a nice review here
Sat through 'How it ends' on Netflix last night. What a depressingly boring film. Forrest Whitaker just about manages to stay awake for the duration and Theo james still struggles to appear grown up. For all the 'action' scenes, there's no sense of jeopardy. Also, it doesn't bode well for America if the entire country breaks down into anarchy within a day of an unspecified disaster happening on the west coast.
Another excellent enviromental film... more a work of protest art than documentary.
Also finished the last episode of this wonderful East German spy drama last night
Highly recommended, as was the previous series..
I agree Ad Astra is the best film I've seen so far this year and I have just seen Joker.
Aside from a few scenes to beef up the action and the way inwhich Pitt ends up alone on the Neptune bound ship (because the plot needed it) I was enthralled by Pitt's performance and that of Tommy Lee Jones. The journey is all in the mind folks, the physical landscape it just backdrop.
Was good I won't deny it. But for me it trotted out the old cliche of mad people are bad people and societies going to the dogs. As a novel take on the Joker character it was interesting and Phoenix put in an outstanding performance. However there is difference between gritty comic book (Ledger) and just gritty. It felt like a mash up of Dark Knight and V for Vendetta
I am with you re-the action scenes. I could imagine the execs going "Jeez this is too cerebral, let's chuck in a buggy chase". However I liked the idea that the moon had been commercialised and using actual shots of the lunar lnadscape was inspired. The space station scene genuinely shocked despite a slit "how the f*ck", buggy chase gratuitous and the How-can-we-get-Brad-onto-a-spaceship-all-on-his-lonesome scene a bit (a lot) convienent. However brushing all that aside I would still give it 9/10
Jordan Peele's 'Us' is on Prime now. There's a relentless sense of violent threat in the early midsection where I was forced to make a cup of tea but I'm glad I stuck with it. Some interesting points about 'otherness' if you're looking for a metaphor. And always good to see plain old 'weird' getting a look-in, in the age of relentless testing, focus groups and the quest for the middle ground.
I felt very let down by “Us”. It tried to repeat that “Cabin in the Woods” trick of telling you the whole film and the end, in the opening scene, but then presented that expected ending as a deep twist, which actually had no meaning or sense anyway.
Joker brought to mind not so much King of Comedy, but Requiem for a Dream!
With twisted elements of taxi driver.
It was kind of depressing. like Mike Leigh had taken over DC
Joker. Not giving this a numerical score, for a change. Ignoring my points score for now though, this is a very interesting and bold film to throw into the mainstream under the guise of a “comic-book-related” major release. It is slow, bleak and downbeat. It keeps being compared to Scorsese, notably Taxi Driver and King of Comedy which are not inaccurate comparison but a bit obvious and lazy. I saw strong elements of Requiem for a Dream in there, in terms of futile pursuit of impossible dreams, by the “losers” in society.
Barely any of the characters are “good” or “positive” people. There are no heroics, no action set-pieces, nobody to rescue.
In this respect the closest “comic-book” type of film I can think of is the obscure micro-budget “Special” (the one where Michael Rapaport does a drugs trial and the side effect is that he wrongly believe he has powers).
A very interesting film which I think warrants a second viewing.
Phoenix is truly astonishing in it and he’s in virtually every single scene.
It’s not without flaw and that is why I am not giving it a points score as it might be misleading on my system. The score is intrusive, that was my biggest issue and it is a major one actually. But I’ll leave it at that.
Too late to edit. Those “dreams” are not impossible, they are fairly reasonable yet simply unattainable for these characters therefore still quite futile
Just seen Joker. My 2nd favourite film of the year and the first genuinely subversive big Hollywood release that I can remember for a very long time. Not sure if its central theme is brave or perhaps foolish given the common psychological profiles of the perpetrators of many mass killings the US has endured over recent years. Thought provoking stuff.
Currently on All 4, 'A Dark Song'. This is an unusual psychological haunted house horror, played as a two hander by Steve Oram (always good) and Catherine Walker (very watchable). I caught this a few weeks ago and really liked it but couldn't put my finger on why. It'd be interesting to hear what anybody else made of it.
Saw this yesterday. It's despairing and visceral and could almost have been made completely outside of it's comic book origins. It's excellent but very dark cinema and JP is superb as the lead, but it's not something I'd feel happy to recommend to everyone as its a masterpiece of leering observation of a character and a city unravelling. The cinematography and sound were also outstanding.
I felt several interlinked themes are highly resonant for a UK audience: the rich becoming richer and leaving the population in decline and facing an unknown future with probable social unrest; the impact on support services for mental illness of austerity; talk shows recruiting ordinary people to mock them; the poor quality of life in dead-end insecure work. How all this social degradation can, with the wrong trigger, spill over into anger and violence.
Something else I noticed having watched JPs bulked up portrayal of the lead in You Were Never Really Here the other day, is the trauma he must put his body through adapting to these roles.
Good Posture. A strong 6.5/10, maybe 7/10
Tiny indie film written and directed by Dolly Wells. Not much plot, and hard to say if it is even much of a "character study". If one can have such a thing as a "grounded piece of whimsy", this might be an example. Just follows a few weeks in the life of a young woman who is basically INSTANTLY unlikeable, and is soon referred to in the film as "The Entitled Oaf", as she is given lodging in a tiny room in the home of an affluent family friend, where she proceeds to pretty much laze around like an adolescent despite being a graduate in her early 20s.
That's about all there is to it, really. It is kept engaging by smart dialogue, by being funny yet believable, and by Grace van Patten's performance (and the writing) which start to win you over toward thinking "she's actually nice, at heart, just a bit lost". But my goodness I recognised some of her slovenly ways, giving me flashbacks to various house-share flatmates!
> the trauma he must put his body through adapting to these roles
Nicely counterpointing Batman, who's also known to do this (Christian Bale, I mean, rather than Ben Affleck, and possibly less for the 'Dark Knight' series than other roles)
Bale's up-and-down weight was more rapid and frequent than Phoenix's, to the point where some medical professionals spoke publicly of their concerns. The weight loss for The Machinist got most of the media and public attention, but it was the bulking-up for Batman Begins followed by another rapid weight loss for the overlooked Rescue Dawn and then bulking up for The Dark Knight, which gave cause for concern.
But Mr Bale seems to be a well-adjusted, grounded chap now, so that's alright.
The Day Shall Come
A strong 8/10
It is very “Four Lions but set in Miami” but also offers a lot more than that in depicting the sketchy actions of the authorities (it’s basically Four Lions Entrapment).
I must assume that Anna Kendrick’s role was written quite specifically for her as it is 100% Anna Kendrick (this is a good thing)
The opening title “based on 100 true stories”, and the closing caption showing the fate of all the principal players, are both quite stark (again, remember the actual ending of Four Lions, beyond the slapstick)
It had a bit of an Armando Iannucci feel to it and this also is no bad thing . I don’t think he was actually involved though, and it’s not as improvised as one of his.
Despite having been massively turned off by the concept and by having seen the trailer too many times, I went to see Gemini Man on the strength of this interesting review which soon does away with the narrative content (and its shortcomings) and describes the film as more of a technological test-bed. Worth a read
I pretty much agree with Fionnuala.
I did think that perhaps if you knew nothing of the story concept, actually the first eighty minutes are reasonably well done, but it does turn pretty bad for the final forty minutes.
I went to an HFR 3D screening and I've never seen anything quite like it in terms of feeling that you are there with the characters, especially in the opening scenes (Smith setting up as a sniper, to take out a target on a train). The sharpness is extraordinary, in the true sense of the work. The actors, at least Smith and the ever-underrated Winstead, do their best with a terrible script, it's hard to believe that this project has been kicking around for over twenty years with nobody polishing the story, concept and dialogue!
Whether the immersive effect of HFR will change things in the way that Fionnuala rather hyperbolically suggests, is yet to be seen.
5.5/10 for the film as whole, would like to score it higher as I did enjoy the first 80 minutes but it really nuked its own fridge.
The Irishman 7.5/10
Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, Pesci. The end.
Only joking. Based on "I Heard You Paint Houses", a book about the disappearance of US union head Jimmy Hoffa in 1975, it follows De Niro as Frank Sheerhan over a period of about 60 years from his days as a meat truck driver who starts to skim beef carcasses for a mobster's restaurant and slowly gets pulled into their world as a general dogsbody, heavy and then hitman, right up to his death.
A lot of attention has been drawn to the digital de-ageing of the cast enabling them to play their 30-something-year old selves all the way right up to their 80s/90s. It's uncanny and totally undistracting, but turns out even this cutting edge tech can't turn 76 year old De Niro into a plausible 36 year old. He looks about 50 but with a bit of suspension of disbelief it's fine and it works.
The story revolves around the mob's involvement with the US teamsters (truck drivers) union and specifically with union head Jimmy Hoffa, played brilliantly by Pacino and the friendship struck up over decades between him and Sheerhan (sent by the mob to help Hoffa enforce union action in return for loans from the union pension fund). Al gives us enough of the Pacino schtick to enjoy, but overall a really well-balanced performance rather than the full "Hoo Ha!" caricature that too many directors try to pull from him. Hoffa and Sheerhan's friendship is believable and touching, with Sheerman's increasing, helplessness, stress and exasperation at Hoffa's tweaking the noses of the wrong people really well played by De Niro.
Pesci plays Sheerhan's recruiter and "rabbi" with quiet and polite menace but with also a genuine lightness towards Sheerhan which makes you believe he genuinely likes him. All three big guns are great and the chemistry exactly what I went in hoping for.
Amongst the gangster euphemisms, whipcrack-sharp and short hits of violence and zingy retorts is some genuine and sometimes self-parodying comedy, which helps break things up nicely.
Why only 7.5/10? It's probably twenty to thirty minutes longer than it needs to be, or better still that time could have been spent further examining the relationships between Sheerhan, his wife and particularly his daughter, who knows early on exactly what kind of man her father is, and how his character and career put an emotional distance between them. This would have had a secondary benefit of mitigating the otherwise total sausage-fest on display, but I can't honestly say I was expecting anything else. My score could easily go up on a second watch.
All that being said, it's Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci: go and watch it.
Off on a tangent, what are your thoughts on Scorsese's recent public slating of superhero films and his own novelty use of the de-ageing CGI whose development has been progressed massively by the success of superhero films? I felt he came across as an elitist snob and quite a hypocrite. Mind you, his "Silence" is the third-lowest scoring film I've seen in the cinema since I started my "marks out of ten system" and I couldn't really get into "Hugo"....
Nearly 4 hours of a gangster/union drama doesn't appeal!
> Off on a tangent, what are your thoughts on Scorsese's recent public slating of superhero films and his own novelty use of the de-ageing CGI whose development has been progressed massively by the success of superhero films? I felt he came across as an elitist snob and quite a hypocrite.
Thought he came across as a grumpy old git, however if anyone is allowed to be opinionated about cinema then he'd be on that list. I totally disagree FWIW and think that Marvel specifically have absolutely nailed the formula (horrible terminology but that's what it is) for broad appeal action/sci fi blockbusters. Not everything has to be Citizen Kane, does it?
> Mind you, his "Silence" is the third-lowest scoring film I've seen in the cinema since I started my "marks out of ten system" and I couldn't really get into "Hugo"....
Not seen either but I did want to watch Silence. I'll take it on advice.
> Nearly 4 hours of a gangster/union drama doesn't appeal!
I'd say it's genuinely worth it for the acting alone. The jokes, when they come, are pretty good as well. The violence is very brief, underplayed and the better for it. As I said, it could be shorter, but we watched it at Everyman, Bristol and you basically have a sofa between two plus there's wine, so it wasn't the ordeal that some cinema seats can be.
Last week I saw 'The Souvenir', for which Scorcese was executive producer. I'll have to say, I thought it was dire – 1 star. A film in search of a story. Problem was it had several stories going on, some of which, tantalisingly interesting, were dropped, and nothing added up in the end. The underlying problem was that, although it had some good moments of social realism, it was a really slack, over-wordy script. So film far too long. It was 120 minutes but felt like 150. Whole shots, even scenes, were completely redundant (e.g. the last shot). It seems amazing that Scorcese let the cameras roll on this one, before the script had been fully worked out.
I will see The Irishman, for sure.
Silence I gave 2.5/10. It was a massive muddle, I seem to recall FOUR voiceover narrators, one of which took over the final act having come in from out of the blue. Garfield and Driver give serviceable performances but you could tell that this was a story intended to hit the cinemas at another time with a bigger cast - it should have been done in the 1980s to capitalise on The Bounty and The Mission.
Garfield and Driver are excellent actors but Silence needed star power.
I recall seeing as a self-inflicted cinema double bill with Manchester by the Sea as the second one, and Silence made Manchester by the Sea (very heavy feel-bad melodrama, in case you didn't know) feel like a breeze
"Formula" absolutely need not be seen as a pejorative term. Notably "the Hollywood forumla". What's wrong with that? People enjoy it (the formula is basically "create likeable/relatable characters, give them obstacles, see them overcome those obstacles")
You do, of course (you surely must - it would be really quite extraordinary if you didn't) realise that Executive Producer can mean all sorts of things, including "lending your name to a completed project just to help it get some distribution". The notion of Scorsese strolling around multiple productions like The Man From Del Monte from the television adverts, declaring whether cameras may roll or not, is a nice visual though, so thanks for that!
In fairness, it seems not to have been the case here although I would still strongly question what creative involvement he had.
"Martin Scorsese joined the film as an executive producer after he saw and loved Archipelago (2010) (also directed by Hogg) for the first time while shooting Hugo (2011) in London in 2010."
from imdb. com
Lots of people are banging on about how Joaquin Phoenix should be a dead cert for Best Actor as Joker.
What do we really think the odds are of the Academy awarding an Oscar to someone for playing the same "comic book character" which is (I think) the only such role to have previously won an Oscar for someone, just 11 years ago?
Sadly perhaps, I think the odds are stacked against him
> You do, of course (you surely must - it would be really quite extraordinary if you didn't) realise that Executive Producer can mean all sorts of things, including "lending your name to a completed project just to help it get some distribution". The notion of Scorsese strolling around multiple productions like The Man From Del Monte from the television adverts, declaring whether cameras may roll or not, is a nice visual though, so thanks for that!
On all the movies I worked on the Executive Producer was there throughout.
> In fairness, it seems not to have been the case here although I would still strongly question what creative involvement he had.
> "Martin Scorsese joined the film as an executive producer after he saw and loved Archipelago (2010) (also directed by Hogg) for the first time while shooting Hugo (2011) in London in 2010."
Because Scorcese is a great director I would have thought he would have at least wanted to see the script before lending his name to the project. He was obviously already v impressed by Hogg, so perhaps he was less critical than he might have been.
> On all the movies I worked on the Executive Producer was there throughout.
Actually, about four of the bigger pictures I worked on had several Exec Producers. None of them were ever at the coal face in a creative sense, but stuck away in offices often not even in the studio but in the west end.
Chariots of Fire was at Pinewood when I was working on Krull. I don't remember seeing Dodi Fayed ever, but Puttnam was around all the time.
Clearly I've completely misunderstood your declaration that "On all the movies I worked on the Executive Producer was there throughout" then! (My emphases on "the" and "there", at least the latter of which is open to interpretation anyway)
Puttnam was a Producer. Even I know the difference between a Producer and an Executive Producer! Of course Puttnam would have been "around all the time".
The point I was making about Puttnam was not the fact that he was the Producer, but that he was exceptionally hands-on.
It's astonishing how the numbers of producers and exec producers varied from movie to movie. Of the more notable ones I worked on:
The Shining (huge) had only one Exec Producer (Jan Harlan - v much in evidence all the time) and three Assoc Prod;
Krull (huge) had just one Prod, one Exec Prod, and one Assoc Prod;
The Dresser (small) didn’t have an ‘Exec Prod’ - he (the dreaded Nigel Wooll) called himself the Assoc Prod;
Neverending Story (huge), 2 Exce prod, 3 Prod, 1 assoc prod, I co-producer. Bernd Eichinger, the prod, was very hands on: was at every single rushes;
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (huge) just three: I prod, 1 exec prod and 1 Assoc Prod. All v much in evidence during the shoot, particularly Yoram Ben-Ami the Exec Prod - who had the difficult job of handling an exceptionally difficult director. I had a huge amount of respect for him. In some ways he seemed like the linchpin of the whole production:
Legend (huge, and a hell of a mess, re-cut many times) had an astonishing 16 producers: 5 prod, 10 exec, 1 co-prod....
PS. Re an earlier point you made. When I said 'there all the time', I meant 'on the production all the way through' (didn't come in at at a late stage). It doesn't mean they were on the set (very rare) but typically splitting their time between being in the studio offices and in Soho.
PS2. As far as I could see, the Executive Producer's main job was handling the money/keeping the production in budget as far as possible (the Production Accountant working directly under him); the Producer was in the grander position of overseeing the whole production and would be the chief UK liaison with the American major in Hollywood. Sometimes the (main) Executive Producer would effectively become the producer (Jan Harlan, Nigel Wooll, Yoram Ben-Ami being the outstanding examples in my experience).
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