FERRARI (2023) with Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz. Directed by Michael Mann
Not as racing heavy as I guessed it was going to be. There's some at the beginning of the film and then the entire third act is the Mille Maglia, but that's about it. Instead, the film is more of a study of Enzo Ferrari (Driver) and his wife Laura (Cruz) as they deal with marriage and business problems. It's very well done and acted beautifully but it overall felt lacking in terms of 'meat on the bone'. I guess I was expecting something along the lines of FORD V FERRARI, a film I consider to be one of the better films of the last 10 years.
In the Michael Mann roster of films, I'd put this in about the middle tier.
PRISCILLA (2023) Dir Sofia Coppola
Based on an autobiographical book by the lady herself, this covers well-trodden territory to the extent of being on the dull side. No surprises to anyone who's seen one of the many similar movies before.
No actual Elvis music apart from "Guitar Man" sung by an impressionist plus an instrumental version of "Love Me Tender" once or twice. Jacob Elordi, whose name has cropped up in our "Next James Bond" thread, is a convincing enough Elvis and the young actress playing Priscilla (whose name escapes me) is also very good although I don't recall the real one being so tiny.
Unfortunately it stops before she gets around to making "Naked Gun" movies. 🙁
^^^ This is the sort of film we seem to have seen in cinemas since the pandemic, do you know what I mean? Sort piss dull, it comes and it goes, no real urgency to even see it on Netflix let alone fork out £20 or more on the big screen. It's sort of furlough cinema, we will make this film to keep things ticking along and people in the industry employed....
^^^ I am looking forward to Jonathon Glazer's new movie which has just given him his first Oscar nomination The Zone of Interest, a foreign language film and taken from Martin Amis' best selling book. Glazer is a brilliant and underrated director. Set during WW2 at and near Auschwitz, this sounds like another holocaust movie, but by focussing on the everyday life of the German commandant, Glazer underlines the latent horror that thrives inside human nature and occasionally manifests itself through abhorrent actions, changing individuals forever by the experience. A difficult and emotionally harrowing experience, I expect.
I've heard great things on ZONE OF INTEREST.
THE RUNNING MAN (1987)
The year is 2017 and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards is framed and jailed for using his helicopter gunship to kill a crowd of protesters. Arnie and two other inmates soon escape prison in a fun but violent sequence, but Arnie is arrested at an airport. This brings him to the attention of the slimy and corrupt gameshow host (played superbly by Richard Dawson) of the nations most popular programme, The Running Man. He knows that the publicly hated Ben will be a big rating booster. So Arnie is entered into the show where it is kill or be killed.
Of course Dawson has underestimated Arnie’s fighting prowess and as he takes on the show’s bizarre villains, who are armed with flame throwers, chainsaws and other weapons, but in true pulp fashion they all fall victim to their own weapons with Arnie ending each killing with a suitably groan inducing pun. Off-screen Dawson is evil to everyone, firing a cleaner for instance, but once the cameras start turning he’s the epitome of family-friendly jollity.
Stating a year is always bad because when that year finally comes around the movie could look dated, and that how it looks now, both in its special effects and its misjudged view of what 2017 would look like - mainly the same as the 1980s, with big hair and shoulderpads and disco dance sequences set to some rather good funky Harold Faltermeyer rhythms. Accomplished action director Andrew Davis (Under Siege) was replaced during production by Starsky And Hutch actor Paul Michael Glaser, who really doesn’t handle the action sequences brilliantly, they’re a bit jerky and lack cohesion.
But it’s a fairly decent effort and worth watching for Richard Dawson’s gameshow host, alone, and a decent part for our own Yaphet Kotto.
....and not a mention of Stephen King!!! 😱
😵💫 Put it down to a rapidly ageing brain that’s losing millions of cells every day 😂
Never really cared for THE RUNNING MAN. Even back in 1987, it all looked incredibly cheap in terms of production design. The action is poorly shot too. The only thing that really works in the film is the humor...in that regard, it has a surprisingly solid hit/miss ratio.
The biggest crime is in altering the premise of the Stephen King (Richard Bachman) source novel. That original novel is fantastic and goes in much more interesting directions than the film. Doing the novel justice would have required a much larger budget, though.
The Magnificent Ambersons
Orson Welles' masterpiece about the decline and sidelining of a rich aristocratic American family at the turn of the century was famously butchered by the film studios in his absence, following poor test reviews. One of those wielding the scalpel was Robert Wise, who went on to direct West Side Story and The Sound of Music.
I like The Sound of Music but that could do with half an hour removed from it - namely all the songs, of course. Trust me, and you know this is true, when you have a film with Nazis, you need to get to the Nazis right away, not faff about singing on a mountain top. I mean, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Where Eagles Dare, The Great Escape - would any of these be improved by songs? I rest my case.
The Sound of Nazis - now that would be a movie. Opening aerial shots swooping across the Austrian countryside, to the increasing sound of jackboots and snippets of speeches from Hitler,
Anyway, Robert Wise is a disgrace for overseeing the cutting of half an hour from The Magnificent Ambersons.
Having seen it, it should have had another hour cut on top of that!
Oh, but seriously, it's awful. I can't see how it could ever have been good. Unless the studio also recast the film, added most of the scenes and rewrote the dialogue too. It starts off with scene setting stuff, Orson the narrator, explaining about the rich aristocratic family in their big house. It doesn't quite ring true - you don't see this family interact with anyone or have any friends really. It's a device we saw in Citizen Kane and I didn't warm to it then - the opening news reel that goes on and on, it made sense in the cinema at the time I guess, as news was shown that way in lieu of TV coverage, but even so, it breaks the law of show, don't tell. Kane does feel a bit like this, even as the film goes on, the faceless journalist asks questions, then we cut to another scene - I honestly don't care as much about his overall rise and fall and corruption along the way as I should.
But in this, I can't fudge it. After half an hour, there isn't a character even interesting in the film, let alone to root for or relate to or be entertained by. The theme is this only child brat who is spoilt and due his comeuppance. But there's no drama to speak of. In, say, Wuthering Heights, we have such a character early on, but he's up against Heathcliffe and he's the main character. You know there'll be consequences. Worse, while the child actor here is a nasty, one dimensional brat at least he has some brio - as a teen returning from school in horse and cart, he whips one of the plebs to get out the way! But the adult actor is Tim Holt and he seems miscast, he's almost like ex-chancellor George Osborne without the charisma. I didn't realise he was meant to be the same guy, he seems way-faced, petty, charmless.... you can't base a film around him.
There's a narrative trick of having the village residents huff and puff over the conduct of the youngster but again, it's good for scene setting - at some point you think, is this film actually going to get going? Will the little creep run into somebody so there's useful conflict? He's not a tragic figure because you never get the sense he has a crossroads in his life where he might turn good instead.
Joseph Cotton is in it, but while they're meant to be opposed to each other later in the film, it's feels wrong, as he's the older suitor to his married mother, and... well, if the kid had been the reason they'd split up early on, that would make sense, well not really... but it was her fault alone they didn't get hitched, and that's conveyed in a comic scene, related in that second hand, scene setting way.
It's just possible the editing nixed some humour or pace that would have made sense of all this but if so the cuts must have been alchemy in reverse. There's a nice scene in the snow with lovely music - it's said Bernard Hermann scored it originally but after it got cut he ensured his name was taken from the credits - but this movie put me in mind of The Avengers - not the Marvel franchise but the turkey with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman - where you have the makings of a fine trailer but the film, no matter how you dice it, it's gonna come out bad.
The whole saga is related in a dreary, second-hand of way with the emphasis on impressive camera work. At the end, Orson Welles does an end credits where he narrates the players and participants in pompous style. It's all really weird.
I rather like THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS myself but yeah, you can tell there are lots of missing pieces in there. I know they're still scouring the globe in the hopes of finding the missing footage...maybe one day.
Did you just criticize an Orson Wells movie, NP? You know you can't legally do that. The punishment set by the Parliament is watching all the Transformers movies on repeat for a month.
DEEP IMPACT (1998)
I’m a sucker for end-of-the-world movies and two similar comets-colliding-with-Earth stories were released in 1998. For me, this one is better than Michael Bay’s Armageddon, with Bruce Willis. Deep Impact was the serious one of the two, which is probably why it took less at the box office.
NASA discovers that a comet “the size of Everest” is on a collision course for Earth. Tea Leoni is a reporter for MSNBC who discovers a hot story of a top political resignation. A woman named “Ellie” seems to be involved but instead of being a mistress to a politician she finds out that “Ellie” is jargon for “Extinction Level Event.” There’s still hope for mankind though, because US President (Morgan Freeman) tells a press conference, of which Tea Leoni is elevated to the first questioner in return for her silence, of the Messiah Project, which will send a manned joint US-Russian spacecraft to plant nuclear bombs in the comet and disintegrate it.
The Messiah crew includes Robert Duvall, called out of retirement because of his gravitas with the public. Tea Leoni, in a sub-plot about her resentment for her father (Maximilian Schell) for divorcing her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) is just one of several soap-opera style sub-plots leading up to the climax. Elijah Wood stars as the kid who first discovers the comet.
Will Earth survive? Well, in these sort of movies the audience pays to see the action so if nothing happened the audience would feel cheated. In Krakatoa, East Of Java we pay to see the volcano explode, so in Deep Impact we pay to see the comet hit the Earth, otherwise word would get out and there goes the box office.
Much credit must go to the wrters and director for building interesting characters and keeping the tension high, and we get scenes of destruction and scenes that produce tears in the eyes.
Well done to all concerned - I really do love this movie .
I agree, it's better than "Armageddon". Maybe I should rewatch the two of them soon.
DEEP IMPACT is much better than ARMAGEDDON, one of the more stupid mainstream blockbusters I've ever seen. If you want to laugh, do a search on youtube for Ben Affleck's dvd commentary on the film...he really rips into just how stupid it is.
If you've never seen it, look for GREENLAND with Gerard Butler. It's kinda like DEEP IMPACT in terms of tone but the smart decision is made to ensure that the audience is only made aware of what Butler and his family know. Very well acted with some solid twists in it.
EFFIE GRAY (2014)
A misleading biographical historical drama relating the story of art critic John Ruskin and his failed marriage to Effie Gray, the muse of pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Milias. Swathes of the real story are cut asunder in a screenplay by Emma Thompson that attempts to put a modern slant on a Victorian scandal. Dakota Fanning makes an entirely vacant heroine. Greg Wise cuts an impotent and disturbingly domineering, yet essentially childlike, figure as the genius Ruskin, a man for whom perfection is everything, to the point it becomes purity, thus a thing never to be defiled. His confusion of religious faith and cultural and societal expectation forms the basis for his doomed marriage, yet is only hinted at; Thompson prefers to push a domestic abuse angle, including a poisoning episode that resembles Hitchcock and is a quite dreadful impersonation. The film looks pretty, if stark, a bit like some Milias paintings. Nice music.
Poor things (2023)
This movie got a lot of good reviews and is nominated for the Oscars, so I thought I'd watch it. But even more important I think is that it's a (very) origonal idea for a plot that isn't from an IP like a book, TV-series or comic. You know - like most movies used to be. The plot is absolutely unusual as you would expect from the director who made The Lobster or The Favourite. The main character played by Emma Stone kills herself in the begining of the movie. A mad scientist named Godwin Baxter (William Defoe) finds her as she is dying and discovers she's pregnant. He saves her by putting the brain of the unborn child into the woman's head. You don't see that in a lot of movies! He calls her Bella Baxter and Godwin brings her up as his daughter. While her body is that of a grown woman, her brain and mind is that of a baby, then a toddler , later an teenager etc. I like that it's not an idealized or romantisized version of toddlers or any other age we get. Emma Stone does a great job of portraying the body language and acts and emotions of a child. I wouldn't mind if she got an Oscar for this.
it's of course not by accident that bella calls Godwin "God". Godwin was himself experimented by his own father when he grew up and had a very strange and difficult upbringing. godwin also has a lot of Doctor Frankenstein and his ,onster in him. He recruits one of his students, Max MacCandles (Ramy Youssef), to help him bring up and study Bella. Godwin doesn't want Bella to leave the house and for a range of reasons her life is very strange and at times disturbing. As she mentally starts growing up she runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) who both takes advantage of her and educates her by showing her the world. His character is a long way from Bruce Banner and I suspect Ruffalo had a blast in this role. Defoe has almost made a career of playing colourful and eccentric characters, but Ruffalo and Stone have the looks to make a living from romantic comedies and action movies. I admire how they (especially Stone) have dared to take on such unusual and challenging roles.
The world is very much a version of cyberpunk that is very striking and inventive. I like that very much. We also see how "God" has experimented on animals and created large birds with the head of a pig and other ..... ungodly hybrids.
"It's not for everyone" is a clishe, but it certainly applies to this movie. if you're tired of superhero movies and other calculated blockbusters and wants to see something very different this is very well made and obviously different. But if you don't have much experience with arthouse movies I wouldn't reccomed you started with Poor Things. Try something by Wes Anderson ot Tim Burton first. But if you're into this sort of thing I can absolutely recomend it.
Thanks for that review @Number24 as I was planning on watching this, given the sparkling reviews and all those Oscar nods. Hmm. Then I watched the trailer and I thought: "Oh, God, it's one of those films." You say above that it isn't a MCU, which indeed it isn't, but it still looks just as unreal as a comic book. Perhaps this is the new satire, but it just reminded me of Connery's final movie, the horrifically acted CGI monstrosity of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The trailer only lasted one minute and I was already thinking: "How can I sit through two hours of this adult fairy tale without flinching every time the camera pans across a vivid entirely computer generated landscape?" Dear Lord.
I'm banking on The Zone of Interest to restore a semblance of reality back into cinema. I didn't get tickets for the Jonathon Glazer interview at the BFI - they sold out extremely fast - but UNDER THE SKIN is being repeated on Friday night, so I'll be absorbing that fantastic science fiction fairy story which basically encompasses exactly the same scenario as POOR THINGS but from the perspective of a first contact alien. It also doesn't use the bells, whistles and fake lighting of CGI but is filmed on the streets of Glasgow. Sci-Fi with brains.
Other than the steampunk setting Poor Things is very different from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Poor Things isn't a comercial movie, and it knows it. I also think it's the plot and the acting that stays with you after watching Poor Things.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS: D'ARTAGNAN (2023)
This is part one of a new take on the classic tale. Part 2, MILADY, will hopefully become available here in the US soon.
I've never read the original book but I've seen all of the films which have been made so far. This new take doesn't differ all that much from the other films in terms of plotting, so it really comes down to the quality of the execution to make it stand apart. The good news is that this is very well executed with lush production design, authentic looking costumes, solid acting, and some truly first rate action.
Oh, and Vesper Lynd herself, Eva Greene, plays Milady.
The wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this. The only fault that we found is that it purposely ends on a cliffhanger...so dangit, I hope MILADY gets released on streaming soon.
@Number24 Poor Things actually IS from a book, published in 1992 and won several prizes for literature…originally set in Glasgow 🙂
I just discovered that myself. 😂
At least the resource material isn't very famous like Harry Potter or LotR. (or is it?)
Never Let Go (1960)
Having watched all of these, this weekend, at BFI Southbank, I've now finished tinkering with my reviews of them:
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996)
I reviewed this movie a year or two back. I didn't intend to watch it, but there was nowt on and Dad enjoys it. Very traditional suspense thriller with the emphasis on the suspense - sometimes literally. Exceedingly good product with some superb visuals. When I watch it, I wistfully wish a few James Bond films are as clever, easy on the eye and mind, and tantalisingly lovable as this. Sterling entertainment that serves as a template to how modern action thrillers can work in both a Hitchcockian and a 'Die Hard' style. Sadly almost no others - including this film's numerous sequels and much recent OO7 - achieve the marriage. Tom Cruise at the top of his toothy game. Brian de Palma directs with much gusto and invention. Loved it.
I vastly prefer this film to Armageddon; it isn't even close.
Greenland was a great deal of fun!
ARGYLLE (2024) with Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O'Hara, Samuel L. Jackson, and a cgi cat. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Howard is a novelist named Elly Conway who writes a spy fiction series about a superspy named Argylle (visualized by Henry Cavill). While traveling via train, she meets up with Sam Rockwell who reveals to her that he's actually a real life spy AND her books are actually 100% accurate to reality...like, they're documenting secret things that spy organizations and agents have actually done. The syndicate from her book is actually out to get her in order to find out what is going to happen in her NEXT novel. Action and stuff happens.
What I described above is revealed in essentially the first 20 or so minutes. To describe anything further would be to go into spoilery territory.
But how is the movie? Well...it's ok. The wife and I enjoyed it for the most part but it has several problems:
There's a lot here that does work, though. Some of the twists in it are fun...to that end, go in clean without spoiling anything if you're going to watch this. Also, the disco soundtrack is lively and engaging. Most importantly, there are two action set pieces in the third act that are simply amazing to watch...well executed, thrilling, and genuinely funny. My theater was roaring with laughter at those two set pieces.
Not sure if I can really recommend this or not. If you're in the right mood, this could prove to be an interesting diversion. If not, then this will be tedious up until that third act where everything really starts humming.
Oddly, Argyll (sp) isn't on my radar except by accident, it's odd. It's like cinema just isn't promoting itself. Same goes for the pop charts - just why isn't there a chart show these days, or a video channel for anything other than 1980s hits, or Christmas hits in Nov and Dec? I mean, the videos are all done, they're good, it's free telly. The artists benefit. We all do. I digress.
That said, my sister says she enjoyed the new Andrew Scott film which is getting 5 stars everywhere, and another Bond alumni Jeffery Wright is in American Fiction, also getting good reviews.
Layer Cake with Paddington stars Ben Wilshaw and Sally Hawkins.
In this outing, our furry friend is given a consignment of tasty cakes to offload, only to discover they are knocked off, and the Dragon (a departure into folk law I'm not sure Michael Bond would approve of, then again it is about a talking bear) is hot on his trail, as is Mr Gruber who has long had it in for the hapless bear....
Okay, okay, this is one of Matthew Vaughn's early films and I do wish he'd done Casino Royale, based on this, as it is so engrossing and well shot, with a touch of the bizarre. It never flags, there is always something of interest even though it seems clear that Craig is better working with an ensemble cast. Everyone is good in this, and it's as if Bond's first kill is when we see Craig take someone out in this. Michael Gamdon is on fine form and Ben Wilshaw unrecognisable from his later Q character, he is such a good actor. Sally Hawkins is good too though she and the other lowlife gangster seemed more part of a Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels type film.
Some of it is confusing and only last night I picked up on a final twist after the "Layer Cake' speech. That's not good is it. But it is filmed so well I don't really mind.
Like a classic Bond, I can watch this again and again.
I just had a drink in a pub called Argyll...
Anyway, back to business...
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)
Ten years on from Hammer Films’ Quatermass 2 and eight years from the third BBC television series, Nigel Kneale developed a screen adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit, throwing his experimental rocket scientist into a tale of the paranormal, collective memory, alien invasion and the lurking latent evil within the human race. Dr Who has a lot to thank Nigel Kneale and this Hammer film trilogy for as the children’s sci-fi show randomly stole ideas from these adult stories for years. This one mostly resembles The Daemons, but there are influences noticeable in The Ice Warriors, Image of the Fendahl and The Ark In Space. The role of the army sceptic – here played by our own Julian Glover – would become the basis for Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT.
Putting aside the debt owed by Dr Who, Quatermass and the Pit is a successful slice of mid-range intelligent science fiction. Here, Quatermass investigates strange goings on during routine excavations at Hobb’s End metro station. He comes to believe humans must not have evolved naturally on Earth, but needed the gene pool of a race of super-intelligent alien locusts to make those first steps to humankind. The tacit lesson being taught is that even alien races have the same foibles as ‘us’ for these strange insectoids had carried out a form of ethnic cleansing, a genocide so severe it eventually resulted in the race’s complete extinction. The paranormal angle seems to have been created more to provide some ghostly supernatural ‘horror’, basically a hurricane force wind and a screeching tornado howl that destroys first a local pub [not the Argyll, I need to add] and then the entire city of London. To be honest, the film isn’t a horror movie at all; it is most definitely sci-fi and much better for it.
Andrew Kier was chosen over Brian Donlevy and he offers a calmer, older and more considered version of the hero. James Donald was given top billing for playing the anthropologist researching the curious remains. Barbara Shelley is good as his assistant. The film has some shoddy production values, including dreadful S/F/X, that do it no favours. Overall though, it is a sturdy product that doesn’t quite grab you in the chops like #2 did, yet nonetheless is intriguing and memorable chiefly for the central premise and the good performances which underpin and enhance the fairly rudimentary and stereotypical interaction between the characters.
This was director Roy Baker’s return to helming cinema movies after some years slumming it as a TV director. He also changed his stage name to Roy Ward Baker, leading many to believe this was a debut from a new artiste. Baker would go on to work often and relatively successfully for Hammer Films for many years.
THE COURIER (2009)
A depressingly ultra-violent film taking place in ‘real time’ about a motorcycle courier who saves a police witness and becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse hunt in a London carpark. Gary Oldman phones in his performance as the crime boss who wants the witness assassinated. Olga Kurylenko was fresh from Quantum of Solace, where her ballsy, revenge ridden role at least displayed her intelligence and physical capabilities; this time she’s ex-Special Ops which allows even more opportunity for her to be beaten up, shot and tortured. I know we are supposed to be all for women’s rights and liberation or whatever you want to call it, but there is something upsetting about watching a woman being beaten to a pulp over and over. The film is humourless, unsubtle, badly acted and by dint of its repetitious nature intensely boring. The filmmakers appear to believe that loud music, violence, posturing and infantile profanities constitute entertainment. This is quite possibly one of the worst films I have ever seen. Please, I beg you, just take my word and do not watch it.