THE ACCOUNTANT (2016)
A committed performance from Ben Afleck can’t disguise the rather routine action and unnecessarily convoluted plotting of this slow-burn thriller. Afleck plays an autistic accountant who doubles as a fixer for illegal corporations, including terrorists, drug barons and dodgy businessmen. Things turn rough for the previously untouchable accountant when the Treasury Dept decides to investigate his actions at the same time the owners of a robotics firm ask him to uncover who has embezzled out of millions.
Decent action sequences can’t hide the silliness of a story which tries to be so much more than it needs to be. In a way, the film attempts to step on from We Need To Talk About Kevin and suggest that kids who have a pressing homicidal instability might not only be serial killers, they could also be trained into almost infallible assassins. That conclusion feels not only unlikely, but perverse.
Anna Kendrick is the love interest, if you can call it that. J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai Robinson spar well as the Treasury agents.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - DEAD RECKONING PART ONE
No spoilers here either, but fans of 70s/ 80s/ 90s Bond films (John Glen Bond, in particular) will find a lot to enjoy in this movie's breathtaking action sequences. There's at least one specific homage - to FYEO - and a number of other echoes of Bond, too.
Although no M:I films since have matched for me the impact of Brian De Palma's semi-arthouse original, or the action dynamics of the John Woo first sequel, this latest is a fun movie with an engaging - and topical - central concept. At times, Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt seems to be edging towards a 'Roger Moore phase' and I'm certainly not one to complain.
Okay, I guess like a lot of people this summer I've seen in close succession 'Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One', 'Oppenheimer' and 'Barbie'.
IMO they're all good but for me the most consistently entertaining of them is 'Barbie'. It's joyously amusing throughout, made me laugh out loud numerous times (I rarely do that in the cinema) and in its own way it manages to be as thought provoking as 'Oppenheimer' (obviously about different stuff).
With all due respect to Florence Pugh's and Emily Blunt's roles in 'Oppenheimer', writer/ director Greta Gerwig in 'Barbie' does a more sophisticated job than Christopher Nolan of representing women's experience. Margot Robbie is a comic delight as Mattel's iconic doll, accessing a wider range of feeling in the part than might have been supposed, and Ryan Gosling's hilarious performance as Ken is almost as interesting - as a comment on masculinity in existential crisis - as the excellent Cillian Murphy is as a modern (cold fish*) Prometheus in the doom-laden Nolan film. (*I agree with @Gymkata on the soullesness of Oppenheimer.)
I don't agree that Oppenheimer (the movie) is soulless. I't incedible to see an intelligent biopic that features so much talking about science, ethics and feelings can be so popular in the cinemas these days.
Yes, it's a movie rich in ideas. For me it's that the characters themselves are difficult to warm to - any of them, really.
Do you watch a movie about Robert Oppenheimer to see warm and likable characters?
No. But what I mean by warming to them is finding something about them sufficiently relatable, at some level, to become emotionally invested in their conflicts or dilemmas. As I said, the film is good and Cillian Murphy is excellent in it but the character is a cold fish and so are all the other principals.
I didn't expect a the feelings of man who invents a way for human beings to destroy the world to be particularely relatable, and I wouldn't expect them to be. The situation is nearly unique. Watching the characters most of the time trying to keep a lid on their emotions was very emotional to me. It's not meant to be some Mexican telenovella (I'm exagerating, I know) where all emotions are big and placed cernter stage for all to see.
A CHUMP AT OXFORD (1940)
A bunch of Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello movies have landed on my streaming service here so I thought I’d look at this one as I hadn’t seen it for decades. After inadvertently catching a bank robber our two lovable buffoons are offered an education at Oxford University. Once there some of the students play pranks on them including giving them the dean’s quarters. There is more fun to be had in the maze with a student dressing as a ghost. Peter Cushing is one of the students in an early role. Laurel & Hardy are without doubt the greatest double-act of all time, their timing is impeccable. At just an hour it’s a short but hilarious film. I laughed out loud at some of it, which is rare in any of today’s movies.
Comedy at its best.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953)
Fondly remembered now as the film whose best musical sequence accompanies Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend and inspired an early pop video hit for Madonna, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a movie about a sharp socially wised-up gold-digger who catches her millionaire husband after a series of mishaps in New York, Paris and on a cruise ship.
Marilyn Monroe was second billed behind Jane Russell [although they appear alongside each other during the credit scene, Russell’s name is on the left as you read them] and earned her weekly salary to the ‘veteran’ star’s $200,000. Nonetheless she is the undoubted star of a lightly romantic and rather cynical little to-do involving two showgirls out to snare a man, one for love, the other for the security of money. Monroe’s Lorelai Lee is a comic delight and she excels as a leading lady, interacting well with her peer star and the support cast, which is generally weak. Moments of delight include getting stuck in a ship cabin’s porthole, attempting to get private detective Eliot Reed drunk, charming the pants off Charles Coburn’s con artist and staring in bewildered fascination at a glittering tiara. Jane Russell is generous in allowing Monroe to shine so often. She’s provided with plenty of decent lines herself, but you know she’s fighting a losing battle from the off when, as the stars sing Two Little Girls From Little Rock, Monroe winks delightedly at the camera. She’s letting us know immediately this’ll be a cheeky ride, and for the era Charles Lederer’s script is quite fruity, touching as it does on sexual matters. This is never more apparent than when Russell carouses with an Olympic gymnastics team and every lyric of her song is a double-entendre. While Monroe’s Lorelei is made out to be prettily devious, although agreeably romantic, it is Russell’s Dorothy who is impetuous in love and basically a bit of a slapper. That’s not how you’d envisage it.
Director Howard Hawks didn’t do musicals and absented himself from the set when the song and dance stuff was choreographed and filmed. He shows barely an ounce of interest in the comedy either. The movie is jovial, but flat. Thanks then to Marilyn Monroe for keeping us interested. Her star was rising fast in 1953 and she never looked back and rarely looked lovelier. Good costumes from Travilla. One question bothered me: what is the significance of the title as Monroe’s blonde hair is never mentioned once in the script and none of the men behave like gentlemen – is it a sophisticated ironic comment on ‘dumb blondes’ or just a memorable catchy phrase?
It's the title of the book it's based on, @chrisno1. I've never read it, but I guess the significance is mentioned there.
27 DRESSES (2008)
A misguided rom-com which makes bad fun out out of the saying 'always a bride's maid, never a bride.' Katherine Heigl's Jane Nichols tries to elicit our sympathy but we spend most of the run time aghast at her choice of friends, family and lovers: a horrible boss she pines for, a manipulative sister, a pillock of a dad, a whining best friend and a suitor who is a journalist but behaves like a stalker. I'll give James Marsden credit for persistence, but his motives are shady at best. There's no chemistry between any of the characters. No laughs either. You wonder what happened to the 27 other friends whose weddings the poor lass organised. No friends there obviously, they hightail it off until she recruits them at the crass finale to be her bride's maids, all 27 of them. Incidentally it should be 28 dresses, but when a film is as bad as this it really doesn't matter. It was popular on release. Can't imagine why.
ONE RANGER (2023)
Thomas Jane is looking a mite older than when I last saw him in a movie and he treads in John Wayne’s Brannigan territory as an American law enforcement officer sent to London to track down an IRA terrorist aiming to blow up the Houses of Parliament. For someone who’s supposed to be the best Texas Ranger in the business he doesn’t half get beaten up a lot but I suppose it’s a lot better than being like Steven Seagal where not even a single punch gets landed on him. John Malkovich acts strangely as the British Intelligence chief. Nick Moran plays a Cossack arms dealer. Patrick Bergin is unrecognisable from his Sleeping With The Enemy days. Dean Jagger is on the cast list, I thought he was dead so was waiting for him to turn up, he doesn’t as he actually is dead and it’s the name of the actor who plays the protagonist. Very odd all round.
NORTHWEST FRONTIER (1959)
I think someone reviewed this before...
Kenneth More plays a stiff lipped English officer who is tasked with rescuing and transporting an orphaned Maharajah boy to the nearest safe city during a Muslim revolt in the Punjab. The movie variously attempted to approach ethical, political and social themes with little success. It is basically a western on wheels set in the last days of the British Raj. Lauren Bacall provides some romantic interest and Herbert Lom scowls as the villain of the piece. Like Stagecoach, the scenario draws together a disparate group of travellers marshalled by an inventive and resourceful leader. Moments of suspense enliven the proceedings. The film is at its best during tense forays outside of the train carriage, including an investigation of a gruesome massacre, the repair of a broken railway sleeper and reactivating a damaged water pumping station. Geoffrey Unsworth photographs in gaudy colour. Filmed in India and Spain by J. Lee Thompson, Northwest Frontier received a nomination for film of the year from BAFTA. Even more surprising was the citation for its screenplay, which is the film’s major flaw, failing to pull all the story’s elements into a coherent whole. Fairly enjoyable if dated entertainment.
The things you never knew.
More detailed thoughts -
So, just like the atomic bomb itself, these things take time? 😀
I think I'm OK with the atomic bomb content in Twin Peaks The Return: episode 8 Gotta Light? dont really need to see Nolan's version
and those other 55 minutes are pretty swell too.
I expressed pretty much this view in my review, but I wasted too many words. In short - my review was too long.
THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980)
It’s always a pleasure to revisit this cult classic as the brothers reform their R&B band to raise money to save the orphanage where they grew up. The music is outstanding and several legends lend support along with cameos including John Candy, Twiggy and Steven Spielberg. Carnage follows as the brothers manage to piss off the police force, an ex-fiancée, a country and western band, a group of Nazi sympathisers and lots of others. The whole thing is as mad as a box of frogs but it works and is marvellous entertainment.
A timeless classic.
TALK TO ME (2023)
In this disturbing Australian horror film directors Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou ration the jump scares in favour of exploring psychological themes of transgression, guilt and bereavement.
The draw of the film is an implied parallel between familiar tropes - cases of possession by the conjured spirits of the evil dead - and the dangers of recreational drug use by college-aged kids: a group of teens aquire an artefact with ouija properties - the porcelain-covered, severed hand of a deceased satanist - and take turns to use it to invite spirits to inhabit their souls for a few seconds at a time, thrilling to the rush of the wild experience and videoing the results on their cell phones. It's no surprise to the audience when the evil spirits take horrific advantage of the teens' reckless partying and their personal vulnerabilities. Though this concept is hardly original in the genre, it's novel to see it played out in an indie idiom and with a cast of Z Gen characters who see their illicit experience as a social media opportunity (minus the meta dimensions of something like the playful 'Scream' franchise).
Indeed, it soon becomes clear that this isn't just a cliched scream-fest of a movie. Go see it if you enjoy some dark thoughtfulness in your horror films.
one of my faves! you have excellent taste. When this came out, me and my schoolchums lined up to see it almost as many times as we saw Star Wars
the Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles sequences in particular are magnificent, I always like when the camera cuts to the exterior of Ray's music shop and we see hundreds of people dancing, some of them on the elevated train track. city streets should always be like that, itd be a better world.
I also like to watch for all the surreal elements. when the car drives over the unfinished onramp then drops, the camera cuts to a car dropping from hundreds of feet above! surely the drop was twenty or thirty feet at most. The films full of irrational shots like that, only noticed upon repeated viewings. How does not one of the pursuing police cars overtake the BluesMobile on that long drive back to Chicago?
Aykroyd has said the BluesMobile is meant to be his version of ChittyChittyBangBang, it doesnt just have cap shacks cap brakes and cap suspension, its magical!
and yes this was one of many small parts John Candy got in his friends' films before John Hughes made him a leading man. I was a John Candy fan since I first saw him in SCTV in 1977 (dressed in a toga, talking like Curly Howard). Aykroyd and Belushi and Harold Ramis all revered the big guy and knew he'd make their films funnier.
also check out Belushi doing his own stuntwork when he takes that fall down the stairs while wedged in a childrens desk. Lets see Tom Cruise do that stunt!
@caractacus potts, the surreal elements in The Blues Brothers are easily explained: they were on a mission from God 😀
It's one of my favorites as well
Glad to see the love for TBB - orange whips for everyone 😁
THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1962)
Roger Corman resuscitates [!!!] another Edgar Allan Poe story but with less success than his Vincent Price classics The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and The Pendulum. Ray Milland is the rich man obsessed with being buried alive, convinced he suffers from catalepsy. Hazel Court plays his blushing and concerned bride. A gloomy affair which appears to take place entirely at night and never leaves the confines of the family mansion, cemetery and mist ridden moorland. The success or otherwise of the piece depends entirely on how much you believe two eminent doctors can fail to detect the signs of the living in the supposed dead. It doesn’t help that Milland’s hero / victim turns into a homicidal maniac and removes from the audience all sympathy for his plight. A good performance from the aging star and more bloody shocks than most Hammer products of the early sixties tend to keep one interested, but only vaguely. A minor outing for Corman and probably the least vital of the director’s ‘Poe Cycle’ where better was still to come.
George Peppard is an interesting actor. His career never quite seemed to take off. Following a television apprenticeship in the late 1950s, he landed the romantic lead opposite Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which should have led to great things. A series of roles as a blue-eyed, blonde, all-American style hero of westerns and war films followed, including a trio of outstanding blockbusters in The Victors, The Blue Max and Operation Crossbow. Soap opera fare like The Carpetbaggers solidified his image as a hard as nails, amoral bastard of a star, and that isn’t far wrong. Peppard’s on screen ability to remain cool, callous and aloof throughout incident and impact is probably only bettered by Steve McQueen. He fell rapidly from grace following Tobruk – another war film – and the actor himself regarded his 1960s output as financially worthwhile but shorn of any quality. He genuinely considered himself to be an actor, not a star, hence he began to choose odd assignments, such as The Ground Star Conspiracy, The Executioner and this one, Pendulum, where his character seems to drift inexorably into McQueen and Eastwood territory, that of Bullitt or Coogan’s Bluff, perhaps even the nastiness of Sinatra’s Joe Leland in The Detective.
Peppard plays Frank Matthews, a decorated Washington police captain, whose sees his last arrest and conviction overturned on a technicality. Paul Sanderson is a killer and rapist and ace manipulator, but Matthews sees through the façade. Following the youngster’s release, Matthews’ adulterous wife and lover are murdered and suspicion falls on him. Naturally, he calls on the same lawyer who defended Paul Sanderson – but can they prove Matthews’ innocence?
A noirish thriller with exploitation elements, director George Schaefer – who did most of his work on TV – holds our attention and intriguingly regularly draws his camera to Peppard’s stoic, blue-eyed countenance, an expression that betrays nothing, hence we are never certain Matthews is innocent. He certainly has motive, chasing the philandering Jean Seberg around the city. But he’s equally guilty of succumbing to his wife’s passions, as we witness their awkward, lustful tryst while a coffee pot brews. All is clearly not roses in the Matthews’ household. Nor is it a welcome home for Robert Lyons’ murderer, whose skittish mother Madeleine Sherwood has drug and alcohol problems. There is something seedy and unpleasant about the world this particular cop inhabits, the people he associates with, including high ranking officials who find it easier to apportion blame than uphold law and order. It is never clear whether Matthews really did torture his suspect, but the movie insinuates that if he did it may just have been worthwhile, which is a mindset Harry Callaghan displays in Don Siegel’s seminal Dirty Harry. Pendulum predates that film by three years.
It is an efficient procedural, let down only by a delirious climax that owes more to Bonnie and Clyde’s bloodletting than any decent conclusion should. I enjoyed it. Peppard and the support cast offer enough nuances to increase the effectiveness of a work-a-day script. There’s a jazzy little music score from Walter Scharf. The lead actor himself, of course, achieved lasting popularity as the cigar chomping Hannibal Smith in television’s cheerfully ridiculous The A Team.
THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964)
The eighth and final entry into the famous Roger Corman ‘Poe-Cycle’ is the second filmed in England at Shepperton Studios. Unlike the totally studio bound Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia also makes remarkable use of the Norfolk countryside, in particular the ruins of Castle Acre Priory. The surprisingly literal script from Robert Towne only touches on Edgar Allen Poe’s main concern: ‘The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague’ – a statement that itself is shadowy and vague. However, what Towne and by extension Corman do is weave a series of dramatic and sometimes demonic dreamscapes within the landscape of a psychological horror. Where Hitchcock used birds to represent a latent unseen evil, Towne and Corman utilise a marauding untameable black cat, a witch’s signal. The darn thing springs up everywhere, sometimes to mislead, sometimes to challenge, sometimes as a primed assassin. The heroine’s fear of this bundle of fur seems ridiculous – it is only a cat after all – but this needs to be tempered by the admission that it isn’t the cat Rowena is frightened off, but what the cat represents: the dark side of her husband’s life, the malevolent existence he holds within himself, the mesmeric power he wields yet also fails to combat.
Black is an important colour in the film. Rowena wears a stunning black riding outfit when we first meet her, off set by a crimson waistcoat. As she tumbles onto the aspidistras lain on a tombstone, her clothing matches their red blooms and black stalks. A dead fox is less rust-red than coiled black. The grey walls of an abandoned abbey take on a charcoal shadow. Verden Fell clothes himself in black velvet, wears black sunglasses and claims to live only at night, the blackest time. Most tellingly, Verden’s dead wife Ligeia is blessed with a mountain of raven hair.
The other teasing factor is the window to the soul: people’s eyes. At Ligeia’s contested burial, the cat leaps onto the casket, and her eyes spring open. ‘Nor lie in death forever’ her epitaph claims. Has she been buried alive? we ask. As the story progresses and the atmosphere deepens, so Corman concentrates more and more on people’s eyes. Verden’s are constantly hidden. “Eyes do not readily surrender the mystery they hold,” he says, inspecting a waxwork of an Egyptian effigy. He demonstrates mesmerism by using his eyes as the focus of the hypnotic. On his return from a honeymoon, he immediately covers his eyes on entering the abbey, thus returning his being back into the unholy state we first encountered him. At the climax, Verden’s gaze is glazed and his eyes can no longer interpret what is before him, only what he wishes or believes he is witnessing. This is a man on the verge and then dipping into insanity: “The night always fell,” he explains, “and with it the madness returned.” Donning the sunglasses reinforces the latent evil within. The black cat attacks people’s eyes, as if trying to extinguish light, pitching its victims into a world of demented darkness.
If the film teeters on the edge of cinematic madness itself, that is only to be expected. Vincent Price is superb as the weary, but intense Verden Fell, a man who is clearly indulging in a form of mental necrophilia He’s given great support by Elizabeth Shepherd, who elicits our sympathies. These two make an intense pair of lovers. We sense immediately their undignified attraction, solidified by a scene where Corman frames them with a wrought iron portal window, glass gone, cobwebs hanging, dark and dingy. An exceedingly strange and chilling picture for a love scene. This romance – and the film for the most part is a romantic one – is never going to end well.
Good support is provided by Oliver Johnston’s shifty butler Kendrick, John Westbrook’s lawyer and Derek Francis’ blustering Baron. Arthur Grant’s cinematography is lush. Ken Jones offers a music score that hints at several classical works. It is recorded by the London Sinfonia, so there’s genuine class there. If the trademark Corman-Poe climatic inferno comes as no surprise, and is something of a let-down, all that came before, the mysteries, the eyes, the nights, those bizarre drowsy dreamscapes, the sense of impending disaster looming, is a touch of real class and demonstrates what can be achieved on so little a budget if the script is sound, the direction snappy and the performances strident.
A persuasive, beautifully filmed psychological horror of much purling tension.
The lost gold of Magellan is hunted by various groups of people. Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg lead the good guys and Antonio Banderas takes charge of the villains. Taking inspiration from the Indiana Jones and National Treasure franchises this is a happy go lucky, fast moving action flick which although is hardly original ticks most of the right boxes if you’re after a family popcorn movie. Some of the CGI and green screen is off kilter but it doesn’t distract from an enjoyable family movie. The epilogue sets up a possible sequel.
Despite the climax taking place in the Philippines none of it was actually filmed here. In fact the film was banned from being shown in cinemas here and Vietnam due to the map shown that includes the nine-dash line in the disputed South China Sea that China claims is their maritime territory. The Magellan Shrine is actually only a 5 minute ride away from my house on Mactan Island. This marks the spot where Magellan fell at the hands of the great Philippine warrior Lapu-Lapu in 1521.
A nice family movie - don’t expect too much and you will enjoy it.
One Spy Too Many (1966)
Opening Channel D….
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. film No 3, made by joining together a two part edition of the regular TV show. If I remember correctly, this was shown as a cinema film outside the USA.
I won’t bore you with the plot, which is no different from other U.N.C.L.E. plots (world domination, blah blah). Rip Torn made a good villain. There were a couple of interesting moments which would turn up in later Bond films (eg Napoleon Solo fighting a musclebound henchman in a gym, both using equipment such as weights, similar to a scene in NSNA). And our own Teru Shimada (Mr Osato in YOLT) turns up as a prospective assassination victim.
I’ve bought two boxes of U.N.C.L.E. dvds so might post comments on another episode later.
I loved those UNCLE movies at the cinema during the 60’s, the slow motion opening scenes during the titles were particularly good and the music was terrific. I went though the complete series a few years ago and enjoyed most of it apart from when they went too silly to try and compete with the popular Batman series of the time.