Movies With Others – Pride & Prejudice 1995 – Get Cultured (repost)

vaxwpk857xbpaeosvkrsfmbokpl[A/N: this is back from my days in the tiger pits. No mothers were involved in the making of this post.]

“Riders, are we gonna get cultured tonight?”
“Yeah!”
“Wait, what are we doing?”
“Getting cultured. We’re watching Pride and Prejudice.”
“And Zombies?”

“A2, come get cultured!”
“….what?”
“We’re watching Pride and Prejudice.”
“But no zombies.”

“It’s kind of creepy that he’s just staring at her. I mean, he was awkward in the other version but this one–”
“Even more awkward.”
“Yeahhh…”

“So…what she just said was, ‘I heard you’re into this guy and I’m gonna tell it to you straight,’ but then she said, ‘you gotta be careful, he’s poor’?”

“He still staring at her?”
“It’s so awkward!”

“The mother isn’t going to be like this the whole movie, is she?”
“Yep.”
“Oh my g*d. I hate her already.”

“I like how the dad is just out of it. He’s so chill.”

“So awkward.”

“Homegirl is sassy! I love it. I like this girl. I hate everyone else, but I like her.”
“Well, what about Jane?”
“Oh, Jane is OK.”
“And what about the dad?”
“Oh, well, sure, I like him too.”
“What about Darcy?”
“Oh, well, I love Colin Firth, so sure. Even though he’s a creepy awkward dude who stares at girls instead of talking to them.”
“Hey, talking to people is hard.”
“…fair.”

“Oh my gosh. Is this the cousin guy?”
“He’s definitely more weasly. And possibly more ratlike.”
“I think he’s less ratlike but more weasly in this one.”
“You guys, he’s creepy!”

“THIS GUY! He’s so creepy!”
“He’s supposed to be like funny in a pathetic way.”
“He’s so creepy, it’s like–it’s like actually making me physically uncomfortable to see him.”

“Ooo, ooh is this gonna be the scene where he finds her in his house? DUDE. I cannot imagine how it would be if I came home and the person I asked to marry me and who turned me down was there IN MY HOUSE.”
“I hope this scene is as good as the other one, because that was deadass hilarious.”

“I feel like I need to read this book.”
“You need to read the book.”

“….so awkward.”

“What did I miss?”
“I wish I could catch you up, but…”
“….culture. You missed getting cultured.”
“Oh. That makes me sad.”

“When are the zombies going to show up?”

QuikReview: Oblivion (2013)

So I watched Oblivion, a 2013 movie scifi movie starring predominantly Tom Cruise.

Now, I’ve opined at length as to the fact that straight scifi movies tend not to be very good. This is because a) filmmakers are stupid, b) they think their audiences are stupid, too. Most SF movies only achieve greatness synthetically, by cribbing off other genres, especially Westerns, but occasionally also horror, or even war-stories. (Pssst, has anyone noticed that Aliens is actually a Western? Everyone thinks it’s an action movie, but it’s got the Red Injuns, the cocky cavalry detachment with the inexperienced leader and the experienced and knowledgeable civilians….)

Anyway, much to my surprise, Oblivion is a straight scifi movie, and it’s….good! It has a simple and unexceptional but solid plot, and it relies on its characters and worldbuilding to reveal that plot point by point and–crucially–twist by twist (there’s a reveal about halfway through that made me actually sit up and grin.) Now, at a certain point it largely gives up on the thoughtful, measured approach and leans hard into the by-golly-I-have-an-explodey-things-budget-and-I’m-gonna-use-it syndrome, but please note I said “leans” not “dives” and entirely omitted “headlong.” The second half of the movie had more than enough built-up good will to keep my attention, but the thing with scifi movies is that they should never try to explain themselves out loud. See a), above. This movie did very, very well when it showed its protagonist–and its audience–what was going on; it only started to fumble when it switched over to telling.

What is there to show, then? Well, Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, Tech-49, who with his communications officer/lover/partner Vika, are the last humans left on Earth after an absolutely devastating war with the alien Scavs that, among other things, destroyed the moon. Most of the human population is on Titan, and some of it is on the orbital space station, the Tet. They have been mind-wiped prior to their mission, because….

Jack maintains the drone fleet that protects the ocean-water-sucking thingies that are destroying what’s left of the earth for power. (Why not just mine some comets, asks no screenwriter ever.) There are still some remnant Scavs on Earth that attack the drones and the power platforms. Vika is his mission control and interface with Command. The two are an effective team, but there are still some conflicts. Jack has dreams of the future and thoughts of the past; Vika resolutely suppresses such things. Jack has a relaxed view of orders and is fully aware that Command has them on a very long leash; Vika has a much stronger belief in regulations.

And then, a signal beamed from Earth brings an ancient spacecraft back to ground….a spacecraft containing living human crewmembers. Living, that is, until Jack’s own drones destroy all but one of the sleep-pods, utterly ignoring his orders to stand down. The sole survivor is Julia, a woman who refuses to reveal anything more to Jack, Vika, or Command until she retrieves the flight recorder from her ship…and shows them the truth. At about this point, Morgan Freeman also enters the picture, and I do have to ask: if Earth is that destroyed, where’d his cigars come from?

And so it goes with the movie, having accumulated this many questions, starting to tip over into revealing the answers (except the one about the cigars.) And so it goes, with the one problem that it reveals rather too many answers and in rather too bald-face a manner for my views.

Other good stuff: the cinematography of this film is really good. Like, I watched it entirely on my phone and I was watching for those little triggering points that normally break my suspension of disbelief (s/a: mysterious, additional light sources when there should not be light sources), and I noticed how good it was. Apparently a chunk of the movie was filmed on location….in Iceland, lending a barren, surreal, beautiful backdrop that works very well indeed. The sets and designs are also very good. Tom Cruise does an expert job as the personable, handsome hero; Morgan Freeman, well, Morgan-Freemans his way through dialogue that is 99% exposition as only Morgan Freeman can or could. Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko are incredibly outmatched in this movie, talent-wise, which is a shame, but they do their best and, in Riseborough’s case, mostly match up to the challenge.

Okay so, although I’ve spent a long while in this review complaining about the movie when it shifts focus to the action, I will also state that the action scenes themselves are largely quite good….at first, when they don’t involve humans. The drones are an incredible threat / weapon / ally, and  it’s an annoying waste of potential that the movie ends up ultimately wimping out and choosing the cheap (explodey) way of making those bits be exciting. That being said, the cinematography still makes everything look good, the characterization makes them be tense and engaging, and, yeah, it’s pretty good.

Overall, I do think that the movie could have been better if it maintained a better balance between its initial, more thoughtful tone and the faster-paced finale (honestly, delete half the expository dialogue and you wouldn’t have to change another thing else), I still have to admit straight-up that, yeah, it’s pretty good.

Rated: Oh wow, you’re in luck, Julie. There’s two of them for you now!

QuikReview – Top Gun: Maverick

So. I had absolutely nothing better to do with myself this afternoon, so I went and watched Top Gun: Maverick. I’ve never watched the original Top Gun (though it’s stunted baby cousin, Navy SEALS, was, well, it wasn’t good either but I had a crush on Michael Biehn.)

Anyhow, this movie: it took precisely ten seconds for me to start grinning, and I never really stopped. This is a movie that knows precisely, exactly, who it’s audience is, and exactly, precisely what they want. (besides stuff going vroommm vrmmm whooosh sssssshwooooo pchwa!, or, “he’s on my tail he’s on my tail! Aaaaahhhhh!!!” and, “Bravo dagger turn flight alpha heading and take altitude 505!” and, “Copy that Blue Leader!”) And it gives it to them right and proper, and…

….and that’s all it takes, really.

The audience wants to see their heroes win. Yes, heroes have to lose a bit, but. They have to win after they lose, and the audience knows this. Mess with this formula for no good reason and you end up with a disaster on your hands. The audience wants to see their heroes fight, struggle a bit, come back up, and win. They want to see their rivals give them a grudging but heart-felt nod of acknowledgement. They want to see them blazing into the sunset with the girl.

Does this movie have flaws? Sure, but off the top of my head the only one that bothered me was actually turned into an asset. The ever-more-compressed timeline keeps the pace such that when the climactic plot events turn from “dramatic” to “highly improbable,” to “okay, seriously, what?”, we’re still invested, still carried along, still wanting to see our heroes survive and win, and slightly too busy watching them do this to ask questions.

I’ll also give full kudos to the film for having the basic intelligence to answer the question that the audience members (me) was asking, namely, “Why don’t you bomb the hell out of the airbase before the fighters start the Death Star trench run?” (They do. End of story.)

Respect + intelligence = success.

Man, if only the rest of Hollywood could get it….

Rated: VRMMM VRMMM SHHHHHVOOOOOOOSHHHH thudathudathuda BOOOM

QuikReview: Gunman’s Walk (1958)

gunmans-walok-still
(reposted from: Watchlist Update)

This one was actually kind of hard to watch: it’s about a strong and headstrong man who goes his own way and raises his sons to do the same…and how his sons, well, do the same.

Van Heflin is solid and by turns charming and unpleasant as patriarch Lee Hackett, who considers himself one of the boys, except for when he doesn’t, and don’t you forget it, kid. He owns the biggest spread in the state, and built every bit of it up with his own hands at the barrel of a gun, wrestling control from wrestlers and Indians. Only….

…only, that was a long time ago and the place is civilized now. It’s illegal to wear guns in town. (It’s illegal to shoot people, too.) Lee himself skirts around issue #1 by having a thorough understanding of issue #2, but his eldest son…

Tab Hunter (also seen as a juvenile in the George Montgomery flick Gun Belt) is Ed Hackett: handsome, ambitious, sullen, resentful, and generous by turns. (Except the handsome bit. He hangs on to that with great prowess throughout the entire movie.) He’s grown up in the shadow of his father and wants to move out of it, but at every turn keeps finding that Dad is–and indeed, all the other authority figures in town are–just a little ways ahead of him. Like, twenty years ahead of him. And when you’re playing with fire and loaded guns, and even if Dad does keep bailing you out of trouble–you don’t get a whole lot of second chances.

Hunter gives an excellent performance–he considered it his best role, apparently, as it gave him a chance to show he wasn’t just another pretty face. He also rides impressively well, so he’s got that going for him, too.

James Darren as the Good Son and Kathryn Grant as the half-Sioux but entirely civilized love interest whose brother was killed…semi-inadvertently…by Ed, have less material to work with but still serve their parts well as the immovable moral centers around which the rest of the characters circle, orbit, and/or crash.

Another reviewer pointed out that this movie might also be read as anti-gun. I suppose you could make that argument, but I find it more of a condemnation of the people who take on a deadly responsibility, perhaps themselves with a clear understanding of what it is–but who fail to teach their children the same. Lee carries a gun as a statement of power, independence, and self-reliance, not quite understanding why this statement is out of fashion in the modern day, but still somewhat understanding that it is. On the other hand, his son, who has absorbed that wearing a gun means standing apart from people who don’t, is violently confused as to why there still seem to be constraints, and so many conflicting rules about his behavior…when he’s the man with the gun.

The ending is standard and a bit pat, but it’s also what the audience, having grown to understand the characters and know their ways, knows is coming–and wants to see.

Rated: four white mares out of four.

Movie Review: Interceptor (2022)

interceptor-208051131-largeImpressively not-dumb….for the most part.

Even though it features a strong female immigrant protagonist who has suffered from a sexual assault from a commanding officer and has had her career derailed as a result, who is aided by a very beta immigrant brown male and opposed by white males, one a resentful uber-loser with a Southern accent who calls himself a patriot as he murders his fellow soldier, of course, and one an all-Midwestern boy with enormous resentment for the failings of capitalist America and also his rich daddy…..it’s kind of still good? (Oh, and even though the lead’s hair does somehow go from being in a bun to being in a ponytail with no explanation, there is a good reason for her to be in a singlet the entire time: acid. Yep. Acid. ‘Cuz acid burns things, duh.)

This film was written and directed by an Austrialian (and stars a bunch of Aussies). As a matter of fact, the writer/director is Matthew Reilly, who I know from Ice Station and his apparent penchant for writing modern-day pulp action thrillers. All I have to say is in that case he should keep his whore mouth shut about America; and additionally, that the movie was about twenty minutes longer than it should have been. Also, boy oh boy are those some of those slowest Navy SEALS ever.

That being said, the good really does outweigh the bad, because need I mention there’s also a random ninja? Honest to God, there’s a random Chinese ninja guy who shows up, does a couple of kung-fu poses, and then gets blasted out of the hatch with a shotgun. (Turns out the emergency command center shotgun only has one bullet and hasn’t been fired in a couple of years, which provides a neat reason for the heroine to get blown backwards across the room when she fires it, and it’s now dangerous to fire again. But then, everyone in this movie doesn’t have very good trigger discipline; they tent to burn through their ammo immediately on full auto.) There’s a happy ending. Good girl Captain Collins gets a tip of the hat from the Russian sub captain, a promotion directly from the President, her dad survives, even the turtle survives. That’s not a spoiler by any stretch of the imagination.

Oh, and also there’s the fact that the heroine’s struggles end up getting shown on the Emergency Broadcast System (which she can’t turn off), and we also get some random San Francisco hippie guy who looks unnervingly like Discount Chris Hemsworth commenting on the action (“Oh c’mon, give her some guns, man!”) (On further research, turns out it was Chris Hemsworth: he’s her husband. Womp womp.)

Plot? Oh. It’s Die Hard with an army girl, on a missile base. There you go.

Elsa Pataky is all cheekbones and sleek ponytail, and looks to have some actual muscle on her frame. She’s by no means a great actress, but she’s game, gung-ho, and does her best. The fight scenes are…okay. Yeah yeah yeah, 100-lb woman vs 250-lb men unrealistic, we know already. What the movie does right is to show that Collins is winning because she’s a smarter, more determined fighter than those she’s up against. I’m definitely not buying the crossing the monkey bars with one arm scene, though.

There are some rather nice flourishes, too: head villain drawing a sad face in the blood of a man he’s just killed on the door the heroine refuses to open, “If’ you’re going to kill me, just kill me. No mansplaining,” “She took that photo for charity, by the way.” “My daddy woulda made me open that door. Noo question!” “Please stop taping the window….[lame grin] for me?”

Rated: This is the last day of my vacation and I refuse to do anything productive in it.

Repost Review: Gun Fury (1953)

Gun Fury is  a 1953 Western with Rock Hudson, Phil Carey, Donna Reed, and Leo Gordon in it. If you don’t know who any of those people are, then shame on you for even reading a scifi blog. Scifi is at its heart descended from the frontier genre and pulp westerns are the granddaddy of all adventure/mil/exploration/colonization/fightin’ injuns aliens scifi stories. SO THERE.

2s39-th
Seriously? That’s a terrible tagline.

Pros: Directed by Raoul Walsh, so, good pacing, good filming (I just really love the look of Technicolor. It’s awesome.), a competent plot, and excellent performances. Phil Carey as (spoiler!) the bad guy carries (ahaha) the show: handsome, assured, dignified, and calmly malevolent. Leo Gordon (Riot in Cell Block 11, Black Patch, Night of the Grizzly), gets a fairly heroic role and does extremely well in it, which must have been a change. Rock Hudson merely has to look square-jawed and handsome, but this probably came easily to him. Ditto for Donna Reed, but she had kind of a lackluster role anyway (see below).

The one thing that I think sets good movies apart from bad is economy: economy of dialogue, of characterization, of philosophy. This movie has it. It takes one throwaway line to set up an entire character (the Indian Guy) who doesn’t show up for another twenty minutes. But when he gets there, we know who he is, why he’s there, and what he’ll do without having it explained. It takes one action (politely offering water to the captive lady and politely leaving her in peace when turned down) to set up that that outlaw is a decent guy who will do right by her–and when he helps her make a break for it, we are not surprised, and when he (spoiler!) gets trampled to death for his pains, we are saddened.

Economy of philosophy is observed, as well. First of all, there has to be a moral philosophy; second, it has to be coherent; third, it should be based in intelligent and reasoned actions by consistent characters. The moral commentary underpinning the story is set up quickly, competently, and early, when Ben and Slader discuss their business plans; it is expanded on through the actions of various characters–of Ben trying and failing to recruit help; of Slader’s lawlessness versus Jess’ soldierly honor–and, finally, it is summed up with a single line and that’s it, we get back to the shooting and galloping. Come to think of it, showing, not telling, is another thing good movies do.

On the downthumb: a Damsel in Distress being the central motivator means that the Damsel stays firmly in Distress the whole time. I prefer heroines with a little more grit and hopefully more motivation. Another problem: the climax hinges on a really, really improbable prisoner exchange that just doesn’t make sense given the circumstances.

So, plot: we open on a stagecoach with the usual complement: a young woman (Donna Reed as Jennifer) travelling to join her fiance; a nervous businessman; a confident ex-Southern Genn’leman in a suit, with a gun, (Phil Carey as Slader); and a guy who is automatically suspicious because he’s hiding under his hat trying to sleep. Our suspicions are promptly confirmed, because when he removes his hat, he is Leo Gordon as Jess, in cahoots with Slader’s Southern Gentleman, but, strangely enough, a decent fellow. We are soon also introduced to the Fiance, Ben (Rock Hudson), whose war-wearied philosophy of minding his own business and no-one else’s, clashes with Slader’s The South Shall Rise (But Mostly I’m In It For Me) ethos. Jess, meanwhile, tries to warn Jennifer and Fiance Ben from continuing on the stage….to no avail.

So there is a robbery, a wrecked stage, and Fiance Ben is left for dead, while Fiancee Jennifer is taken by the outlaws. Only Jess has an appropriately pragmatic–and gentlemanly–attitude about this, for all the good it does him: he gets tied to a post and left behind for the vultures. Meanwhile, Ben wakes up and wanders over to make himself useful. Jess is still alive, and a bargain is struck….

But Ben’s appeal for help–to bystanding sheepherders and to the nearby Sheriff — are met with blank denials by men who have no personal stakes in the game and no business but their own to mind. (Spot the irony. If you look hard enough, it’s there, and not at all outlined and underscored heavily by the movie). Nevertheless, the odds even out a little, as Ben and Jess are joined by a vengeful Indian, and then by Slader’s even more vengeful Mexican ex-girlfriend. Mind you, she’s way more of a hinderance than a help to the heroes, but she does try.

So the plot progresses to the point where Slader is down to three men and willing to deal rather than fight: he’ll take Jess in return for Jennifer, and while Ben is riding back to discuss this with Jess, I’m over here hoping Leo Gordon’s going to survive to the end of the movie….and then Slader grins and checks his pistol and we know he ain’t.

This rank treachery, after a good-faith exchange on Jess and Ben’s part, is what finally drives Ben to deliver the moral straight out: a good man who minds his own business and doesn’t start trouble is still at the mercy of a bad man who causes trouble–and will not stop. Ignoring an evil or avoiding it does not make it go away….it must be stopped, by whatever means is necessary.

Rated: Four incompetent damsels out of five. This movie does not rise to greatness, but it’s still pretty good.

Thoughts:
– There are a lot of very tall people in this movie! Leo Gordon was 6’2, Rock Hudson was 6’5, and Phil Carey was 6’4. Sure, normally the camera would smooth this all out and fake them being “heroically statured,” but they all tower over Donna Reed (5’3) so much that I was actually motivated to look up their statistics.
– Neville Brand! Lee van Cleef! They don’t do very much, but they’re there in the background going “Sure, Boss,” and in Lee’s case, grinning a lot and menacing the damsels.
– Giving orders clearly is a large part of making sure they’re obeyed. “Waitaminute, I wanna make sure I get you. You want me to shoot the horse, shoot her, or what?”
– Horses score: A! It’s made very clear that one horse can’t carry two big men very far, very fast, or for very long; and the heroes make at least one stop purely to rest the horses.
– “You’ll like this one, Mom. Even the Indian guy gets to avenge his sister. It’s very progressive.”

ReReview: Face of a Fugitive (1959)

face-of-a-fugitive-movie-posterSo this is a 1959 Western starring Fred MacMurray and Not-Rhonda Fleming (She has red hair.) Also it has a young but extremely toothy James Coburn as “that young punk who sneers a lot.”

This one was really great, mostly because the plot is very simple. A happens, and therefore B. However, C. And therefore, D. And so on, very logically leading on to (depending on the genre): the farmboy becoming king, the Death Star blowing up, or finding the sword of Martin the Warrior.

In this case: MacMurray is a genial bank robber en route to trial and jail, but actually just about to escape. However, overenthusiastic help from his kid brother ends with two people dead–the brother, and the escorting deputy. Therefore, with murder on the rap sheet, MacMurray has no choice other than to run. However, getting out of town is delayed: all strangers are being detained at the pass until the wanted posters with the fugitive’s picture arrive. And therefore, MacMurray….well, watch the movie. Most of the subsequent “and therefores” are a direct result of MacMurray’s character just being that much of a swell, decent guy. He’s the kind of hero that small children and horses trust on sight. He’s the kind of man who can tuck a little girl into bed, or go toe-to-toe with the toughest guy in town; can talk some sense into a proud young feller’s head, or save the day in a gunfight.

In fact, MacMurray’s hero is so competent, the final fight has to put him at a significant handicap to maintain any sort of tension. This was something that felt like a total gimick at first, but on thought was really quite brilliant. Without the injury, the audience–trusting the guy they’ve seen outthink, outmaneuver, and outfight all parties so far–is going to simply impatiently wait for him to clear up this stupid little fight, and then get back to something that does provide a problem. With it, MacMurray is pinned and the gunfight becomes the center of attention. Kudos to the writer.

The one downside of the movie is that its ending (post-gunfight) is almost cruelly abrupt. Give itfacefugcutting another minute and give the man a line or two to explain himself, at least! Well, nobody’s perfect.

There’s also a really amusing (well, to me, at least) scene where MacMurray’s character is doing the decent thing and cutting James Coburn out of the barbed wire he’s tangled in. At least, until Coburn’s crazy boss and the rest of the riders come storming up, at which point MacMurray books it.

10 wirecutters out of 10.

Movie Review: Tenet (2020) – this genre doesn’t exist

44e7e33d7f2cbdde288a10c719ec6afdPeople who like words, or who are writers, or who have spent too much time in pursuit of an English degree, are generally aware of the existence of palindromes, words or phrases which are the same spelled backwards or forwards. “Tenet,” or “pull-up,” or 02/02/2020, or “do geese see God.” Slightly nerdier people will be aware of the Sator Square, a historical palindrome phrase which can be read in multiple directions and has either a mystical or a vaguely Christian meaning. The word “tenet” also means “principle,” or “doctrine,” or a belief maintained to be true and followed. (Wow, so are layers of meaning here in a simple title? Woww! That’s incredible! Is your mind blown yet?…no?…uh…why not?) Well, maybe if someone in this movie started discussing theistic and/or electrical geese….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScience fiction readers are aware of the fact that there are not, and never have been, a “science fiction” movie genre. This is because science fiction, at its core, is a genre of wonder, imagination, intelligence, and creativity, attributes which writers of screenplays, producers of movies, directors, or actors, do not have.

But Aliens! But, Terminator! But Star Wars! But, but, but Blade Runner! These movies, alas, prove my thesis: that there isn’t an actual sci-fi genre to film, just other genres dressed up in fancier clothing and with different names thrown in. Aliens? It’s a Western. The Cavalry has been trapped at the scene of the massacre. The Injuns are wearing green rubber masks. Terminator? It’s a straight-up slasher thriller with a few special effects thrown in. (If Cameron had wanted to be an auteur, he would have left out the reveal of the Terminator as an actual cyborg and just let later generations argue over whether or not Kyle Reese was insane….at the least that would have spared us the sequels.) Blade Runner? Guys, it’s a color film noir with anxiety about how Asia was taking over the world. Star Wars is jidai geki in space.

tenet-posters-2-600x889-1So what does this have to do with Tenet? It’s a terrible scifi movie, that’s what. But it’s a pretty good contemporary action-thriller. Christopher Nolan’s reach exceeds his grasp, which is too bad, because his grasp also exceeds his imagination in this case. Not a single element of the time-travel makes sense. Not one. Not even in-universe. Not even when you try to think about how it could work, the way it does, instead of how it should work, the way it would when you apply those same exact rules and limitations to it. The whole point of mentioning the Grandfather Paradox is figuring out how to work around it, morons: kill him after your father has been conceived; or take a DNA test to find that Grandma was cheating; or become your own grandfather and live out the stable time loop. The whole point of a timeywimey device means that your first wave is a super sneaky recon squad, ri–oh. Oh, okay then.

I haven’t and won’t attempt to summarize the plot of this movie, because a) puzzlement, b) extreme rage will result. This is genuinely a movie that rewards turning your brain off and watching the show. Is that what Christopher Nolan thought he was making? Probably not, but who knows. He might even think he was making a scifi movie.

But! The action is great, the explosions are more than adequately firey, the locations are exotic, lush, and filmed in Technicolor; and there are several setpieces which genuinely appear to have been filmed live.  The cast is uniformly very easy on the eyes, and, crucially, the characters are rounded, sympathetic, charismatic, and understandable. The characters are what make this movie, because let me tell you, no one is in it for the plot, including Christopher Nolan.

tenet-movie-promotional-photo-posters-26There’s Kat, the extremely tall but still fragile loving mother–and abused wife–of an evil man. There’s Neil, who knows a hell of a lot more than he says, and who saves the world. There’s…uh, let’s see, there’s that Indian lady. There’s even the bad guy, who, while still being an evil and unsympathetic person, shows enough recognizable human emotion that he’s, yes, an actual character with actual thoughts and actual motivations–not just a convenient hate sink for the audience. (Also: after beating a traitor to death with a gold bar, he checks his fitbit. “Ninety-eight. Not bad for such exertion.”)

Then you have the protagonist, who….

….Well, he’s poorly served by the movie, in a methane-sniffing moment deciding to name him “Protagonist;” there’s really no buildup to support the grand end reveal (that he is the mastermind behind the secret organization protecting the world); there’s zero chemistry between him and The Really Tall Damsel In Distress; and….

washington_pattinson_tenetBut, small idiocies aside….he’s a cool, capable, active hero. You don’t see many of those these days. He should be celebrated for being a cool hero guy who does good, heroic things. And y’know, he saves the world and the girl to boot. That counts as doing a pretty darned good job, these days.

Rated: I’m waiting for Fimbulwinter, myself….

The Batman (2022) Movie Review

batman_ver3So much as it pains me to have paid money to do so, I went and watched The Batman. The first and most important things about this movie is that it walks a very fine line and doesn’t fall off it; and that it might actually have been written by an adult human being with a normal amount of intelligence.

That line? The ability to balance inherently ridiculous concepts (and resultant dialogue) with serious execution and sensibilities.

Does this movie “hate Batman?” Not so that I noticed; and for some of the things it did that are objectionable, you might as well criticize the comics themselves for (JUST KILL THE MASS MURDERING COMPLETELY IRREDEEMABLE PSYCHOPATHS ALREADY. JUST DO IT. Now bring back the electric chair treatment for their henchmen. There you go, that’s ALL OF YOUR RECURRING PROBLEMS SOLVED. Gahhhhhh.) Does this movie hate traditional heroism, masculinity, virtue, and the rule of law? Not really–it may even have been written by someone who actually knows what these things are. Is this movie painfully political and woke? No, and without extending too much of the benefit of the doubt, it might actually have a subtle criticism of the concept. More on this later.

Good stuff: The acting, the casting, the cinematography, and the action are all good, you’ve heard it before and in great detail; not arguing there. The semi-climactic fight in the Iceberg Lounge especially was really good, because it showcases “tactician Batman” along with “hand-to-hand combat tank Batman.” I also noticed some of the usual “We hate 100-pound women beating up stuntmen like it’s possible” suspects cheering Selina in this movie, because….of course they would, the choreography is neat and she’s wearing skin-tight latex.

There’s also the playing up of the terror factor to the Batman identity, which I liked immensely and which was stolen wholesale from The Shadow, but never mind.

So the line that everyone is going to point to is Selina accusing “White privileged people” of lacking sympathy for anyone who doesn’t share their particular circumstances. What this movie doesn’t explicitly do is point out that Selina entirely lacks sympathy for anyone who doesn’t share her own particular circumstances. What’s more, several people–the (useless) black lady mayor and the unhinged murdering pathetic psychopath–accuse Bruce Wayne of….well….hm. Privilege, and doing nothing with it. The fact that they’re completely and utterly wrong and the fact that they’re allowing their assumptions, jealousy, and lack of insight to dictate how they react to Bruce, doesn’t get explicitly called out to them…but it is demonstrated in the movie itself. The mayor lady comes across as entitled and stupid; the unhinged pathetic psychopath is an unhinged pathetic psychopath. Bruce Wayne is a man who puts his own life on the line to help others, personally, face-to-face, and it has an actual impact* on people.

(Also, try misappropriating Bat-funds. See where that gets you, HAH.)

(*’cause, y’know….punching…)

I will also give the movie this: while it does have lame dialogue, they did not jar me so far out of enjoyment that I was never able to get back in.

Oh! Also, Bats and Gordon had great buddy-cop chemistry. Also, Catwoman had great chemistry. Just, y’know, in general.

Middle stuff: Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne does pale in the shadow of his Batman, but that’s okay. The evolution of Batman from the darkness to the hero who leads people out of the darkness hasn’t quite begun, and it hasn’t included Bruce yet.

Snerk stuff: Batman walking heavily and loudly AND SLOWLY out of the shadows to impressive music gets rather old, rather fast….as, unfortunately, does the directors’ addiction to showing Batman standing still in the middle of a room doing nothing. (Even the Batmobile gets the same slow, to-music entrance, heh.)

Bad stuff: The last hour of the movie was clunky as hell. There’s no getting around that. Other than the fact that it’s not integrated into the overall plot well, there’s also the shift in tone from the villains being powerful and dangerous, but untouchable, to villains being pathetic…and untouchable. And there’s also the shift in genre from “I desperately want people to call this noir,” to “we’re doing it, we’re blowing it up, WOOO” and these things just don’t gel well together.

For a movie that celebrates Batman’s detective ability….half of Batman’s detective work in this movie consists of walking up to people and asking them if they did X….whereupon they will happily admit to X, reveal all the details about X, and offer to sign the affidavit about X. The other half can be summed up with the phrase “bat deductions.” So….

Rating: I will probably watch this movie again and enjoy it, but I sure as hell will not pay money to do so.

My notes:

bat-deductions

Hope his rabies vax is UTD.

They art-decorated the everliving HELL out of Wayne Manor.

Gordon you plugged the LITERAL THUMB drive into YOUR WORK COMPUTER?

OK motorcycles, I dig it.

CLOSE YOUR FRIDGE

Selina dun fell for tall dark and handsome. Already. Pwah.

Damn. Dat girl got some SLINK.

WOW these people want to spill the beans.

“Alfred, I don’t need your cufflinks.” = best line in the movie.

$10K? 10 measly K? REALLY?

“You think Penguin is the rat?” = close second.

DUKES OF HAZZARD RANDOM RAMP

BAT DEDUCTIONS

Shirtless RP is rather disturbing.

WELL WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OF A HUGE CHARITABLE FUND WITH NO OVERSIGHT?!?!!!!!

DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN

YOU HAD BETTER BE UP TO DATE ON YOUR RABIES SHOT MAN

500 followers???

Really? Really? Things were THAT bad at the orphanage? Is this the Victorian era? You couldn’t import some Catholic nuns or something to run it?

I feel a crowbar would have done just as well there.

All those guys are 150% too slim.

Movie ReReview: The Golden Hawk

mv5bzjrhztfhmjetnjfkms00yzq1ltg0zjgtognjywq2mgi0nzqzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtk4mdgwna4040._v1_The Golden Hawk (1952) – Ok, this is more like it. Oh yeah, a lot more like it. Now THIS is what a pirate movie should be.

(It occurs to me that the only reason Pirates of the Caribbean was as good as it was, was where and when it copied off of older, better, more colorful movies.)

Yeah, there’s a lot of kissy-facing that would be much more convincing if it starred Errol Flynn instead of Sterling Hayden, but there’s also plenty of swashing buckles, proffering pistols, capeswishing, rapier swishing, rum, yo-ho-ho-ing, and stuff blowing up. Actually, on second thought: Hayden is well-cast. The role calls for someone handsome and charming, just not quiiiiiite as handsome or as charming as thinks he is. Hayden delivers.

So! Hayden is Kit Gerardo, French privateer and captain of the Sea Flower. Yeah, it’s a sissy name for a ship. Just roll with it. There’s Rhonda Fleming as the beautiful and red-headed lady captain, Captain Rouge. Her ship is the Witch, which is slightly more badass but also rather underused. Ah well, budgets must have been tight, that’s understandable. There’s another lovely and also headstrong damsel, Helena Carter as Senorita Bianca–the destined bride of Kit’s hated enemy, Captain Del Toro (John Sutton), who is also Governor of Cartagena.

Why hated? Because Del Toro killed Kit’s mother. Dun DUN DUNNNN!

So things happen, rapiers are flourished, headscarves and frilly shirts are worn, cannons are fired, ships are boarded, escapes are made, ransoms are demanded, nubile native dances are danced, you-saved-my-life-debts are repaid, and with one thing and another, Kit ends up in command of the French fleet attacking Cartagena. The attack is preceded by a series of quick stops off at Jamaica to destroy the English supply lines there and prevent the English from aiding the Spaniards. (Huh?…oh well, never mind, we’s on a roll.)

But in the midst of this pillaging, Kit discovers that the plantation he has just torched belongs to none other than Rouge (Jane) herself! She swears revenge! DUN DUN DUNNNN!

Anyhow, Kit’s master plan for taking Cartagena involves e) getting to the powder magazine and f) blowing it up. What about part a-d)? Well, those are: a) getting to Madame Bianca Del Toro, b) seducing her, c) getting the plans of the fortress via, d) promising marriage. Bianca, not being a complete idiot, immediately turns him over to her outraged and jealous husband. Who…sticks him in the dungeon to await a fair trial, instead of, as she demands, hanging him immediately.

Why? Well, because Kit is actually Del Toro’s son! (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN). Oh, this movie is just awesome.

Will Rouge get revenge? Will Del Toro be forced to kill our hero? Will Kit fulfil his mission and be handsomely rewarded by the French government? The answers are to be found within about ten minutes, so there’s really no point in pondering them all too deeply. Just know that it all gets wrapped up and tied with a flourish and a tip of the hat to the ladies, too.

Do I have to discuss how this movie has strong female characters? It has some really interesting strong–and extremely feminine–female characters. They fall in love–they fight back–they defend their honor and maintain their dignity with words if they can and pistols if they must, suss out motivations and psych out the opposition. No, they don’t engage in any sword fighting themselves (if it had been Maureen O’Hara, on the other hand….)–but they hardly need to. These women are dangerous enough without having to raise their hand in anger. And that’s about all that needs to be said. Oh, they also look really, really pretty in Technicolor.

My favorite part: womanizing Kit has a bit where, if a lady is dubious, he offers her a pistol and promises to let her shoot him if he makes a single improper advance. We see him do this to two wenches early on in the film–and then he tries it on Jane. Several minutes later (as Kit’s men are scraping him off the deck): “I knew he’d pull that pistol trick once too often!” Snerk.

Rated: DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN DUNNNNNNNNN