Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International. F. Gary Gray. 2019.

I only vaguely remember the first movie. Or were there two? It was… Fresh Prince and that Tommy Lee guy?

So this is … not a reboot but a sequel with new characters? The concept is basically “Bond, but with funny aliens” so it seems well suited for a series.

Oh! And here Chris Hemsworth (one of the Chris people) does play a Bond parody.

It’s a bit frustrating to watch. Every scene is like “oh… I see what they want this scene to be”… It’s so close to being fun and exciting and cool, but it’s like everything is just slightly out of phase. I can’t even pinpoint what is wrong: The effects are great, Hemsworth is very Chris and Tessa Thompson is a great smartypants rookie, and the plot is satisfyingly over-complicated.

It’s just not … sharp? It needs to be turned up a bit? Is it made for the Chinese market? It’s produced by Tencent?

I like the deadly assassins. They’re super cool.

This movie is inexplicably boring.

Oh, here’s the explanation:

The film went through a troubled production due to frequent clashes between director Gray and producer Parkes, which started when the executive overseeing the project, Sony’s executive vice president of production David Beaubaire, exited the studio in the summer of 2018, and was not replaced. […] Parkes’ new script pages stripped away the early draft’s modern sensibilities, and were newly sent, daily, to Hemsworth and Thompson, who were both so confused that they hired their own dialogue writers. […] The studio tested two cuts — one put together by Gray, the other by Parkes — with the version by Parkes being chosen as the theatrical cut.

But perhaps Parkes isn’t the bad guy here:

Parkes and Gray also clashed over the color-correction process during post-production.

Because the colour grading looks great! Rich, deep and fresh colours.

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel. Robert Rodriguez. 2019.

The title character is CGI, but moves around in a non-CGI environment. (Well, FSVO.) It’s pretty good! I mean, the CGI. As usual, they animate the hair list a bit too much: Not modelling how greasy hair (and all hair is greasy to some degree) just doesn’t move that much.

So it’s a novelty movie based on a Japanese comic book. The weird thing is that the performances by the human actors (like Christoph Waltz) are even more stilted than the CGI performances.

That’s pretty incomprehensible. Not the tomatometer: That sounds about right. But 93% of the audience liked it? Odd.

Because this is pretty dull stuff. I mean, it looks good, but it’s just hard to find anything here that’s interesting. Perhaps if you’re a fan of the comic book, then it’s exciting to watch this version of it? I don’t know?

I expected the big action scenes to be as exciting as watching video games on Youtube. But they manage to make you forget you’re watching CGI creatures in a CGI world. Either that, or it transcends the entire thing into a cartoon. It’s kinda exhilarating, anyway. It’s when they’re not fighting the movie has a problem.

So I liked the last half of the movie a lot more than the first half. But it did feel a bit like the pilot season to a TV show. Unusually with movies these days, it actually felt a bit on the short side?

It cannot be!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home. Jon Watts. 2019.

Oh right. This is after Avengers: Endgame. It starts off with a quite funny recap of the events.

I really enjoyed the first Holland Spider-Man movie. This one starts off a bit slower. It’s amusing, but so far (I’m just 15 minutes in) it’s not as exciting as the first movie. But… it’s got a kind of Bond vibe? Super-glitzy, super-professional shots; repartee that’s crackles without snapping; and a reassuring feeling that we’ll soon be embroiled in some silly adventure or other.

[two seconds pass]

And there we are! Silly adventure!

The plot of this movie makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but I think that’s an advantage. It just makes the movie more like festive. More Bond.

I did smile through large parts of this movie, but there were surprisingly boring bits. It’s like they only had plot enough for … like … an hour, and the rest is padding.

I’m not quite sure how to roll the dice on this one. There are bits here I really, really liked (Peter tingle hee hee), and there’s at least half an hour I was bored silly. And the CGI Spidey doesn’t look as good as in the first movie.

Still, it looks lovely, and Holland is wonderful, and Gyllenhaal is perfectly unhinged, and basically all the actors are charming.

Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix. Simon Kinberg. 2019.

They did this storyline before, didn’t they? Back in the noughts? And it sucked back then so they’re doing it again?

I guess that makes sense, because this time it could perhaps not suck? But it’s weird: The first third is like watching a long recap or something. Was this cut down from a three hour movie?

And it’s weird seeing a jock-like guy playing Cyclops. I’m constantly thinking “ah, Cyclops” but then it’s Beast instead.

Ah, this is why it’s so fucked up:

According to Olivia Munn in September 2017, the movie was meant to be a two-parter. Deadline Hollywood had reported that this was true and that the film was originally meant to be a two-parter but was condensed to one film in late pre-production by the studio and Kinberg had struggled to make major changes to the script. Chris Claremont confirmed this happened, saying the first one was to make the audience fall in love with Jean and the other to break their hearts.

So it feels like a recap because … it is.

The Shi’ar were left out because Kinberg felt that their appearance would draw attention away from Jean and said he would have kept them if the movie could have been four hours long. The aliens then became Skrulls, but later, after reshoots, the D’Bari were chosen as the alien race.

Oh geeze.

It’s a slog. It’s humourless and pompous and there’s nothing to hold your interest. It’s easily the worst of the X-Men movies, and I’ve seen X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It makes no sense and the big emotional beats are like “er… what…”

And I don’t understand why they’re calling the Skrulls D’Bari. I’m guessing Sony owns the Skrulls or something and they didn’t discover that until they’d made the movie so they just renamed the aliens from some aliens that had something to do with Dark Phoenix?

I mean, these ones don’t look like asparagus at all.

The Lady Says No

The Lady Says No. Frank Ross. 1951.

Yes, yes, another public domain movie. I’m going to watch them all even if it kills me!

But this is pretty funny. I mean, it’s consistently amusing: The zippy lines never stop, and even if they aren’t the height of wit, the overwhelming quantity has a quality all of its own.

This is the only movie Frank Ross directed, so I’m guessing this wasn’t a commercial success. But he’s written and produced a bunch, and it’s really quite well made on a scene by scene basis. But it doesn’t make any sense on a macro level.

The storyline is probably offensive to well anybody who’s not a moron, but it’s very watchable. It’s an incredibly strange movie. I mean, at random:

And then we never see her again.

So yeah this isn’t a good movie, but there’s a bunch of compulsively fascinating bits.

I wonder whether whatsername is the template for Hatchet Face in Cry-Baby. She’s just like her, only a bit less. Or more.

Second Chorus

Second Chorus. H.C. Potter. 1940.


That’s some logo.

Anyway, this is another public domain movie, but this one has star power:

And as usual with these things, it hasn’t been restored at all, so it looks pretty awful. And the audio is bad, too.

Still! Astaire!

And he’s as diffidently charming as ever, but this is an oddly low-budget low-effort movie.


In a 1968 interview, Astaire described this effort as “the worst film I ever made.” Astaire admitted that he was attracted to the film by the opportunity to “dance-conduct this real swingin’ outfit”. In an interview shortly before his death, Shaw admitted this film put him off acting.

It does have a couple of nice dance scenes, but the rest is just like there. That’s a convoluted plot that’s not very interesting, and there’s so much dialogue, all aiming for “witty” and landing at “oh lahd”.

What’s the antonym of “scintillating”? That’s what this is.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if it had been restored, and I see that it’s recently had a better re-release. But I’m never going to watch this again.

I did laugh out loud at the score sabotage scene. Toooooooooot!

Ma nuit chez Maud

Ma nuit chez Maud. Éric Rohmer. 1969.

I learned something shocking about Rohmer the other day: He’s a Christian! I really didn’t get that vibe from his movies at all, but of course, I’ve mostly seen his 80s and 90s stuff.

This movie has a much more scripted feeling than I’m used to from Rohmer. The dialogue zips and zings in a quite unnatural way. (I don’t mean that as a criticism.) But as usual, it looks really nice: Some of the shots are downright beautiful. And also as usual, the movie is almost all people talking to each other about like stuff and things.

It’s a fascinating movie, but it has one huge problem: The guy who plays the main character. Which is… Jean-Louis Trintignant. OK, he’s hot shit (he played Georges in Amour), but he just seemed dead here. Or not interested.

[time passes]

OK, now I changed my mind. He has a kind of understated awkwardness that’s interesting.

Perhaps this looks is a bit too on the nose? With the white collar and the black shirt? I mean, the movie’s about Catholic philosophy or something.

It’s a very clockwork movie. I mean, it doesn’t have much of a plot, and the subtext is made explicit in the main character being interested in somehow computing the likelihood of things happening to people. And then everything dovetails all too nicely into one neat bundle. But it was signalled so early on that when it happened (in the very final scene of the movie) I was more “finally!” then “whoooa!”

I mean, it’s all so neatly tied up that it feels a bit like cheating.

If this is the sort of movie Rohmer made early in his career, then I totally understand his dialling back the plot elements in his later movies.

Paradise in Harlem

Paradise in Harlem. Joseph Seiden. 1939.

Yes, this is another public domain B movie from the 30s. This one probably has an even lower budget than usual. But unusually enough, despite being about performers, it not a series of stage acts weakly tied together by some irrelevant plot.

Instead it’s got a pretty weak plot with some stage acts intertwined. It’s a totally different thing!

I mean, it’s a real movie, but with some good stage bits here and there, and with some very appealing music.

The acting isn’t like scintillating and it’s all pretty routine (I mean, the plot is about a beleaguered actor putting on a show (an all-black Othello (I think; it’s difficult to say) in this case) while being chased by mobsters), but it’s enjoyable enough.


Palooka. Benjamin Stoloff. 1934.

Oh, Jimmy Durante. I’m aware of his name but not really much more than that.

This is no great shakes, but it’s pretty amusing. The storyline (it’s basically Rocky except not) works, but there’s large swathes of the movie where they’re just spinning their wheels.

It’s fine: Fun performances, stylish cinematography, and a classic story. But it’s not really worth watching.

The Battle of the River Plate

The Battle of the River Plate. Michael Powell. 1956.

I got a box set of Powell/Pressburger movies, and… this is one of those movies. I’ve seen a handful of them, and they’re wildly uneven. They’re a Weird Mob has to be seen to be believed (but don’t), but then there’s the big classics.

This film is very them. It’s a grand spectacle with a cast of thousands. Well. Dozens. It’s all about chasing a German war ship around, and as usual, they portray the Germans in a pretty positive light. I mean, for murdering bastards.

But it could definitely have had more like interest. It feels a bit like that Mob movie I mentioned: It’s supposed to appeal to a very specific segment of the public, and beyond that there’s not much here.

It’s pretty, though, even if there’s way too many scenes on sound stages pretending to be at sea.