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
Watched Yesterday (2019) at the cinema before it went off with The Lampshade Maker at the weekend. The film, which is basically a Richard Curtis Notting Hill (1999) remix with the added bonus of a What If? premise that asks the question: What if The Beatles Never Existed? before haring off into romantic-comedy-with-a-twist-of-lemon territory, was all kinds of fun. A more stylised visual aesthetic than one has come to expect from a film that takes a Richard Curtis script as its basis and some fun performances from key cast members, helped maintain engagement throughout.
This is light, emotionally manipulative stuff and all the better for it. When the teacher plays a Beatles song at school assembly and everyone joins in, I almost welled up since it reminded me of my own primary school days when teachers would bang out Beatles classics on an upright piano for the kids to singalong to. Another Danny Boyle success. Heartily recommended.
Watched Alfred Hitchcock’s StageFright (1950) on streaming. Often dismissed by fans of the master as sub-par Hitch, the movie is nevertheless an impressively mounted tale of murder, artifice and deception that plays to the director’s strengths as a purveyor of the suspenseful.
There’s a femme fatale. Marlene Dietrich on diabolical and exquisite form as the purported murderess. There’s a man on the run ‘wrongly’ accused of murder, Richard Todd wildly overacting as bewitched and irritatingly naive lover Jonathan Cooper. There’s a good girl, Jane Wyman in undercover amateur detective mode as Eve and there’s impressive support from the likes of Alistair Sim as Eve’s dad whose ability to turn even the most prosaic of scenes into screen gold just by being in them is second to none.
There’s an audacious opening sequence involving a flashback and false narratives that misdirect the viewer and the film is packed with banter and wit and occasional moments of surprise. It’s a touch light, in the manner of the murder mysteries of the period, but as with many of Hitch’s less celebrated output there is plenty to enjoy if you sit back and let it wash over you.
The film would be the last that Hitch shot in England after he returned from America to make the film, until the 70’s. Worth watching for Marlene Dietrich’s hand-picked Christian D’or outfits and cause she’s irrepressibly brilliant whenever she’s on screen.
Watched Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with the boy and marvelled at the amazing effects and Bernard Hermann’s astonishing score. It’s a testament to the genius of Harryhausen’s creations that my son, who is seven and had never seen it before was riveted throughout.
Sure, the acting is overwrought and there’s very little character development on display, but it doesn’t matter. Talos is what matters and the harpies and the hydra. And then there’s the final skeleton fight which is an effects wizard masterclass. I defy anyone not to enjoy this movie and I yearn for the day when adventure/fantasy movies of this calibre are back in vogue again. Directed by Don Chaffey.
Watched The Lost Weekend (1945), Billy Wilder’s classic noir about an alcoholic struggling to gain sobriety, or not, depending how you look at it. Ray Milland’s performance as writer Don is a charming, haunted and distressing tour de force that’s as fine a depiction of alcohol dependence as ever graced the silver screen. Jane Wyman is on hand to glam the film up as Milland’s desperate partner, hanging on irrespective of the negative psychological toll her association with Don is having on her. There have been other movies about alcoholism. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) springs to mind whenever the subject comes up. However, The Lost Weekend remains the detox daddy. It’s a hard film to beat and well worth rediscovery.
Went away for the weekend to Richmond with the family in Yorkshire and spent a couple of days wandering round Medieval castles and abbeys and eating lots of food and sighing at nature. Spent an evening at the Station in Richmond and attended a screening of The Lion King (2019) in the smallest theatre I have ever watched a movie in. The cinema was wonderful, the staff were excellent, and I would heartily recommend it to cinema goers everywhere.
As for the film, it was somewhat of a mixed bag. The effects were wonderful, though the CG cats were nothing like as cute as their animated counterparts. The film’s strict adherence to the source animation proved irritating on occasion and a tad bland. A more original approach, as Favreau favoured for the superior The Jungle Book (2016) re-tread, would have been better. The kids enjoyed it well enough, though whether or not further additions to Disney’s rapidly expanding stable of live action reinterpretations will maintain viewer interest remains to be seen.
Since returning home, have avoided films and done a lot of reading and writing instead. Going to visit another cinema I’ve wanted to go to for some time at the weekend in Woolton, Merseyside to see the new Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Might go for a day out to the Chapeltown cinema in town too for a screening of The Wizard of Oz (1939), if I can rustle up the cash and the clan members to justify it.