Skip to main content

Archive - W



FEATURING:

Waitress
Wall.E
War of the Worlds
Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut
We Own the Night
What Just Happened
Whiteout
Winter Kills
The Wrestler
Wrong is Right

Waitress
(2007)

A nice performance from Keri Russell, but while Adrienne Shelley's (RIP) direction is solid I didn't think too much of her script, such that I was profoundly irritated by the whole affair an hour into it. 

There is only so much of characters being pathetically stuck in a rut in a "quirky but disturbing" manner you can take. Nathan Fillion is wasted in a supporting part (again). Still, lots of people loved it. Apparently.

**


Wall-E
(2008)

Loved the use of Also Spracht Zarathustrsa. This manages to be a natural complement to both the clean 2001 future and the despairing Silent Running one, as well as being an utterly beguiling love story.

*****


War of the Worlds
(2005)

This is a tired filmaker struggling to be significant. The only great film Spielberg has made in the last decade is Minority ReportJust look at the over-wrought and misplaced emphases of Munich. He's not really been interesting since 1981/82 (Empire of the Sun aside). 

What's most telling is that his filmmaking is signified by his cinematographer's washed-out blue hues. Spielberg is redundant, he's even lost the skill of dynamic editing that had hitherto been a de facto unquestionable.

**1/2


Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut

(2009)


It may not be Snyder's preference to include The Black Freighter, but I didn't find it intrusive. Rather, it adds the intended, and appropriate, layer to the overall story. I could still do without the very-Snyder layer of ultra-gore that grizzles overpoweringly through certain scenes, but there is some truly impressive work here, Dr. Manhattan's flashback sequence in particular.

****


We Own the Night
(2007)

Some good performances, but a pretty dumb movie that wants to be taken seriously; son from a cop family follows his own path but is then drawn back into the fold when the family are threatened. There's no nuance, just bad guys and good guys. Robert Duvall, in particular, is wasted.

**


What Just Happened
(2008)

Straight to video Barry Levinson in an unfocussed tale of Hollywood cynicism based on producer Art Linson's book. Which received attention for its tale of Alec Baldwin's prima donna behaviour on the set of The Edge

Bruce Willis gets to play the boorish leading man and Michael Wincott makes the most of his role as a drug-addled Brit producer.

**


Whiteout

(2009)


Kate Beckinsale makes a fetching but unbelievable US Marshall investigating bad behaviour in Antartica. The set-up is promising but Dominic Sena doesn't make the most of it. Nor do the special effects guys, since the blizzards are never less than fake looking.

**


Winter Kills
(1979)

William Richert's fictionalised satire of the Kennedy assassination. Frequently very funny, often downright peculiar.  

John Huston is toweringly nasty as "Joseph Kennedy" and Anthony Perkins steals the film as his right-hand man ("Did you hear that? Did you hear that, you clown? You’ve broken my arm!”).

*****


The Wrestler
(2008)

Impressive, but it didn't really pack the emotional punch for me that it seems to have done for many; I  found Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood's performances much more affecting than Rourke's. 

It fits that Aaronfosky had the Robocop remake scheduled, because he seems incapable of making a film without body horror. Great Clint Mansell score, as usual.

***1/2

Wrong is Right aka The Man With the Deadly Lens
(1982)

I think I prefer the hopelessly Bond-fixated British title to the forgettable US one. Richard Brooks' adaptation of Charles McCarry's novel is scattershot in its satire, but considerably superior to Brooks' direction, which is unfocussed and often incoherent. Nevertheless, the commentary on display here is often razor-like amidst the longuers and scant attention to any notion of believability (particularly in Connery's journalist's ability to walk into any politico's parlour, including the US president's).

The film is at its best in the presidential conferences, where it sometimes comes close to the Strangelovian tone its clearly grasping for. Robert Conrad steals every scene he's in as the paranoid General Wombat, and the mixing of oil interests, media manipulation and going to war under false premises is very resonant. The president is advised that terrorist Rafeeq (played by the great Henry Silva) is "a paranoid megalomaniac, a highly dangerous suicidal chronic masturbator". At the prospect of promotion, the Vice President comments, "Mr President, if you resign a woman, a black woman, will be in the White House. And she won't be serving dinner." The President instructs an attack on Rafeeq with, "You hit 'em! You hit 'em with everything you've got! But for God's sake, don't hit them oil wells!" This is followed by comments such as "Nothing happens until it happens on TV" and "And before you take those oil wells, remember, we're taking a three minute commercial break". At which point Connery removes his rug, which he's been wearing for the entire film, and looks at the camera.

The film is very much in the vein of slightly off-target political satires unfortunately (like the recent War, Inc), rather than those with a strong guiding hand (Strangelove, The President's Analyst and Winter Kills) but any film that has Connery sharing scenes with Leslie Nielsen and which also features Dean Stockwell as a cynically erudite politico must have some curiosity value.

***

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…