A Middle Aged Movie Blog. Being the periodic journal of a film loving middle aged independent science fiction writing father of two and his ongoing adventures in cinema and home video
Attended Home again midweek to watch Mark Jenkins’ Bait (2019), a 16mm stunner of a film set in Cornwall in a small fishing community that has become overrun with tourists. The film focuses on the negative effects of gentrification, the creeping horrors of the British class system and the emotional resilience of workers displaced by ‘progress’. A timely tale wonderfully shot and magnificently edited. Funny, tragic, infuriating and awe inspiring. Excellently performed by all involved. Starring Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine, Simon Shepherd and Giles King.
Spent the weekend catching up with old friends, writing and trialing hangover cures. Trip to CEX. Purchased Alita: Battle Angel (2019) and a Ty West movie In a Valley of Violence (2016) for later in the week.
Returned home and watched Robert Rodriquez’s take on the Manga comic, Alita: Battle Angel, which was originally slated as a James Cameron movie, until he went full Avatar in 2009 and committed himself to Pandora for the rest of his natural life. Was generally entertained. The effects and set pieces were excellent. Plenty of detailed world building. Some interesting ideas, though occasionally a bit plodding. I was reminded of Speed Racer (2008) on occasion and that other under-sung James Cameron TV show from the early noughties, Dark Angel, which introduced Jessica Alba to the world (or to me at least!) and which, unfortunately, vanished off the air after an impressive first and not so impressive second season. The script was a bit ropy, and some of the dialogue a bit clunky. Still, if you can look past the occasionally crap dialogue, which isn’t so hard when a film looks and sounds this good, then you’ll be fine. Starring Christoph Waltz.
Watched The Highwaymen on Netflix (2019), a Bonnie and Clyde movie with the emphasis on the Texas Rangers tasked with bringing the outlaws to justice. Kevin Costner is reassuringly stoic and gruff as almost over the hill ranger Frank Hamer, enjoying a spot of retirement before his former employees come calling. Woody Harrelson is value for money as his disenfranchised former work colleague, Maney Gault. The film is a slow burner, taking its time to get where it’s going. Occasionally it verges on being a bit too earnest. However, it manages to circumvent preachiness and plays more like a chase western than it does period heavy cops and robbers. A pleasant score from Thomas Newman recalling his Road to Perdition (2002) days and some great photography from DP John Schwartzman, which really captures the dusty sun baked and rain pounded regional settings wonderfully, are admirable. Directed by John Lee Hancock.
Spent the week watching The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which I keep wanting to call Age of Innocence for reasons that are beyond me, with The Boy. Safe to say it proved an absolute delight from opening episode right through to the finale. Astonishingly crafted using traditional and modern effects techniques, wonderfully scripted and lovingly directed by one-time Transporter helmer Louis Leterrier. Faultless fantasy TV. All and sundry should check this out.
Revisited Winchester ’73 (1953) Anthony Mann’s classic, hard-nosed, black and white chase western which sees Jimmy Stewart’s earnest Lin McAdam, on a mission to track down outlaw ‘Dutch’ Henry, (Stephen McNally) the criminal responsible for shooting his dad.
Featuring Dodge City, Wyatt Earp, a shooting contest, Rock Hudson as an unconvincing Indian chief, questionable gender politics, gun love, an early role for Tony Curtis, and a properly epic, surprising showdown, the film remains a doozy of a chase Western showcasing the effortless charms of Hollywood legend James Stewart at his best. Starring Shelley Winters and Dan Duryea.
Post birthday cinema notes.
Watched IT Chapter Two (2019) over the weekend and was somewhat disappointed by this second instalment, which was a bit disjointed narratively, due to all the flashback scenes involving kids.
An over reliance on naff CG to wring scares out of poorly constructed, episodic horror encounters was hard to overlook. Periodic attempts at comedy fell flat and were ill timed. One scene, involving a mishandled homage to John Carpenter’s remake The Thing (1982), was particularly eyebrow raising. Pennywise is still the film’s strongest selling point, though he is neither as menacing nor as disturbing as he was in part 1 here.
Adult performances, including those of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, are impressive. However, they are never as sympathetic as their youthful counterparts. As with the original TV miniseries this second half stutters and stumbles. Ultimately, it squanders the groundwork laid out by its superior forerunner and fails to retain interest for its extended runtime. The climax, involving a ludicrous carnival monster merry-go-round, that is as likely to induce vertigo in viewers as it is to invoke horror, is a mess.
I’d hoped the filmmakers would have learned from the mistakes made by the original TV show. Alas, the film fails in almost exactly the same ways as the 1990 mini-series. One day, a film that intertwines the adult and childhood narratives will emerge triumphant. Until that day, however, we will have to make do with one half of a decent movie and one half of a decent TV show. Directed by Andrés Muschietti.
Followed this with Ad Astra (2019) the highly anticipated cerebral sci fi from James Grey, that called to mind Solaris (1972) and was expansive and challenging. Brad Pitt was great in it. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) hitched to movies about father/son issues. Hoyte van Hoytema’s exquisite photography is the film’s strong point, though an otherworldly score from Max Richter/Lorne Balfe does wonders for the film’s atmosphere. If you go into it expecting Star Wars (1977), you’ll walk out of it within twenty minutes. If you want to stretch your brain a bit and fancy a spot of existentialist, intelligent science fiction, then I cannot recommend it highly enough. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland.