Bumblebee

Bumblebee. Travis Knight. 2018.

Wow. So, OK, this is a Transformers movie not directed by the guy who does the other Transformers movies. I kinda enjoy those other movies, but they’re less like movie than a spectacle that happens before your eyes and then they’re over. You basically can’t comprehend them, because there’s nothing there, which I like.

But this is a totally different thing. It starts with a 15 minute sequence which is basically all fighting, and for the first time in a Transformers movie, it looks gorgeous and you can actually follow along what’s happening. It all makes sense!

It’s set in the 80s, and instead of the normal horrible soundtrack we get, like, The Smiths and er Howard Jones. It’s fun.

I laughed out loud at several of the scenes, but it’s not without its problems. As usual with these sort of movies, it gets bogged down in “character development”, which is code word for the protagonist talking about their father (who wasn’t there for them when they grew up). This one has a father that’s dead, so there’s a reason for that, for once.

The actors are fun, though, and the animated sequences are a hoot. But even at less than two hours (half an hour less than usual) it still feels like they could have removed about half an hour from the movie. Or perhaps just fifteen minutes.

Then it would have been The Best Movie Ever In The History Of Ever.

North by Northwest

North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock. 1959.

I must have seen this several times before, but not in 2K. The only thing I remember is Cary Grant running in a field? of corn? with a plane trying to kill him?

But I remember it in black and white, so I may be getting my wires crossed, because this has colour.

So much colour. I think they may have over-saturated this a bit during the transfer.

This is a masterpiece of nightmarish gaslighting and spiralling conspiracy. I don’t usually enjoy these things that much because I just instinctually go AAAAAAAAAAAA!!! but it’s tempered by Cary Grant’s perfectly balanced acting: He’s in a horrible situation, but he’s Cary Grant, you know?

Without Grant this movie would have been ridiculous, but he makes everything make sense. We can believe that Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) would have this reaction to a wanted killer instead of the sensible one.

At 136 minutes, I think this is one of Hitchcock’s longest movies? But it’s so obvious why: It’s not because this has the best plot ever (it’s rather incoherent), but every scene is just a joy to watch. It’s tense and it’s funny.

Gentleman’s Agreement

Gentleman’s Agreement. Elia Kazan. 1947.

Elia Kazan is a name that’s always been there, but isn’t somebody who’s movies I’ve searched out. I’ve always thought of him as a tough-guy left-wing New Jersey director, which probably isn’t completely accurate.

But I watched A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last year, and it was awesome, so I bought a 2K box set.

This is the first movie on the set, and it’s about a journalist (Gregory Peck) struggling to write an article about anti-semitism.

I admire the filmmakers for making this movie, and especially in 1947. It’s well made, transparently filmed, unannoyingly put together (i.e., not with an irritating score). It won all the Oscars.

(Can you hear the “but” coming?)

But.

I feel that Peck just doesn’t do the role very convincingly, and so much here depends on his journey. He’s better when he can grand-stand in a slightly more stylised setting. Perhaps somebody like Cary Grant would have given this a lighter touch… The other characters deliver one speech after another… which can totally work, but since the setting is so pedestrian it just feels incongruous.

Oh:

The role of Phillip Green was first offered to Cary Grant, but he turned it down. Peck decided to accept the role, although his agent advised him to refuse, believing Peck would be endangering his career.

Peck is absolutely amazing in the denouement of the hotel check-in scene, though.

Tinta Roja

Tinta Roja. Francisco J. Lombardi. 2000.

Oh, right; this was the Peruvian movie that was recommended to me some years ago. Hey, things take time.

This is the story about a young, naive guy starting work as an intern at a newspaper. He gets taken under the wings of an old, wise guy, I mean, an old wiseguy, and then character development happens.

There are scenes in here I like, and glimpses into er culture? that I’m not sure have been made especially for this movie or is really a thing. Like this dance thing where the guy tries to light the napkin the women have tied to their asses:

Yes, that’s odd, and this is an odd movie. It’s rather bewildering what the point of view of the movie is: Are we supposed to admire these journalists, or be repulsed by them, or just go “ah, journalists”?

I liked the structural touch of bringing things full circle, but then they made absolutely everything come full circle plot-wise, too, which is a bit *rolls eye oops too much fell out*

Le signe du lion

Le signe du lion. Éric Rohmer. 1962.

I’ve really enjoyed all the Rohmer movies I’ve seen, but I’ve only seen random handful of his 90ish movies. And he’s a Nouvelle Vague director, of course, so now I’m excited to go back to his first movie. (I bought an “integrale” from France which has English subtitles, fortunately. 2K!)

Jess Hahn does an important role, which is an odd choice, because even I can hear that he can barely speak French. It kinda sounds like he’s memorised his lines phonetically? But, I mean, I don’t know from French so perhaps he speaks perfectly.

I found it a bit hard to connect with this movie. Perhaps, in a way, because it’s just too sad. It’s basically about layabout and a sponger who’s getting to be old enough that his acquaintances are no longer charmed. The saddest part of it is that he’s not charming, he’s not funny and he’s not purdy, so Rohmer is really asking a lot of the viewer. I’m guessing that’s very much on purpose.

One note: I don’t quite understand the money bits in the translation. One guy says “dix mille francs”, and it’s translated as “hundred francs”. And:

Milliardaire is translated as “millions”, while it’s really billions.

*scratches head*

Is this something do to with new/old Francs? But dix mille -> 100 is one less zero than billion -> million…

Confusing! Especially since so much of this movie is about L’Argent.

Annihilation

Annihilation. Alex Garland. 2018.

Oh, right, this is the movie directed by the Ex Machina guy. This time he’s gotten more money, but it’s gone the same portentous lines. Not that that was a bad movie…

Oh! He’s the writer of The Beach, which also makes sense, because that’s the worst movie ever made.

So, OK, I have extremely low expectations now. Everything is colour-graded to a kind of greyish teal and nobody has apartments with the proper number of lamps.

By Emacs, this is bad. The guys shows up all weird and the entire audience is going SO THAT”S THE ALIEN?! and then Natalie Portman is all oh honey and then the alien starts coughing blood of course and then they’re in an ambulance and she’s shouting CAN”T YOU DO ANYTHING as one does with EMTs and then the police stops them and she’s all WHAT ARE YOU DOING before they tranq her.

It’s like watching some episode of a New Era Of Quality TV TV show. All the actors are doing TV acting.

OK, it gets a bit better once we get to the main part of the movie. I mean, it’s kinda stupid and stuff, but it’s got some good scares. But the character’s basic inability to believe what’s in front of their eyes is fucking annoying, especially with them shouting about it.

Dude! You’re in a horror movie! Get with the program!

The references to Stalker are obvious and cringe-worthy, because every time you think that thought you’re also thinking “perhaps I could watch an actually good movie instead of this”.

I think this sums it up well:

In this numbingly ludicrous science-fiction drama, written and directed by Alex Garland, a talented cast of actors play undeveloped characters delivering leaden dialogue in a haphazard story that’s filmed with a bland slickness.

The ending with the fire is very, very nice, though, and almost made me retroactively enjoy the movie.

Little Miss Marker


Little Miss Marker. Alexander Hall. 1934.

Shirley Temple!

Hm… Oh, right, I bought a box set of screwball comedies. I’ve seen surprisingly few Shirley Temple movies, so I’m excited now. I’ve seen, like… Wizard of Oz? Oh, that’s Judy Garland!

I love they way everybody talks, see!? They’re all gangsters, see!? Tack on your heels and walk!

Oh, wow. This is a really, really disturbing movie. The concept is that a gambler pawns his daughter to make a bet on some horses. The bookie refuses all other “markers” (i.e., IOUs), but he takes a look at Shirley Temple and gives the guy $20.

Now you’re going to say “ah, but those were different, naive times”, but then there’s the scene where a kid asks her whether her father had forgotten her other places:

So, not, they really weren’t.

But if you manage to pretend to ignore that subtext, this is a really sprightly movie. It zips along; the plot getting zanier all the time and the actors talking faster and faster. The zingers keep coming.

It’s kinda irresistible and Shirley Temple is the dimpliest kid ever and the two mooks baby-sitting her er beyond perfect.

Aquaman

CGI hair still isn’t perfect.

Aquaman. James Wan. 2018.

I’ve never quite understood the obsession super-hero movie filmmakers have with origin stories. The fun thing with super-heroes is watching the super-heroes do super-heroics. With origin stories, you postpone the fun until, like, one third into the movie. And it makes even less sense when they’re rebooting franchises, and audiences are supposed to suffer through yet another variation of a story they’ve seen before.

At least this movie doesn’t have that problem: Nobody has tried to make an Aquaman movie before.

Once it gets going (and it takes less time than most super-hero movies) it’s pretty fun. The main problem is the damn underwater CGI hair: It’s amazingly distracting. The actors’ own hair is pretty much slicked and tied down, but then there’s this crown of tendrils writhing and waving in the water is the most absurd fashion. It’s like they had too much CPU power available and animated each individual strand with its own motion engine.

At one point I started to wonder whether some of these actors were also CGI because the hair just makes everything seem so artificial.

It’s a fun movie with charming actors (the Aquaman/Mera dynamic is great) and lovely CGI (except the hair). The plot is a bit meh, but better than most super-hero movies.

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense. M. Night Shyamalan. 1999.

Yeah yeah yeah, I can see old movies.

In some ways it’s chill watching a twist movie that’s so well-known that I already know what the twist is. You can just sit back and relax and enjoy the chills. On the other hand, large parts of the movie turns rather tedious.

Shyamalan is great with the jump scares, but I think the actors aren’t particularly good. The whining from the kid is annoying and Bruce Willis is going through this movie as if he’s constantly slightly drunk. I know the detachment has a function in the movie, but it’s a turn-off.

And no matter how annoying the kid is, it’s not very convincing the way even the adults are unnerved by him and lash out. And how many times did Willis rewind to the “it’s cold in here” part of that tape? And and.

I’m disappointed that the mother didn’t hire a ghostbusters van at the end.

I’m totally open to the idea that this movie was brilliant in 1999.

Killer Diller

Killer Diller. Josh Binney. 1948.

Oh, right, this is a public domain B movie from that box set I bought a couple of years ago. Most of these movies aren’t much to write home about, but some have real charm. This looks like it’s basically a variety show that’s been made into a movie (with the normal unpretentious framing story).

This one is different than most I’ve seen, because all (?) the actors are black. And it’s got tons of trick photography and kinda interesting cinematography and editing: It’s mostly filmed with a stationary camera, but some of the scenes are edited together with some verve and originality.

That said, this is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, even if some of the songs in the variety show are very good, especially the two by this woman:

I don’t know who she is, but she was funny and had great pipes. And these two did a great tap routine:

And is this Nat King Cole?

I think it is.

Once the framing sequence is over, the main portion of this movie is very enjoyable to watch indeed. It’s just a bunch of brilliant performers performing. Lot’s a great music, some great dancing and some fun skits.