It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

Moving pictures 2019, #16

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More movies. I’m still a bit behind on these. I had thought moving to Sweden would give me more time to work on my blog, and my writing, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Yet. But perhaps as I get settled… I spent a while learning the layout of my local supermarket, only for them to completely re-arrange it. I wasn’t the only one thrown by the change – for a few days, pretty much all customers were quizzing the staff as to the new location of various items. Having said that, shopping is definitely a skill you need to relearn when moving to a new country. Supermarkets are different, food is different. It’s not a hard skill to learn, it must be said, but it’s not something you expect to have to learn. Unlike the language.

Anyway.another bunch of films; some recent, some not….

Siren, Jesse Peyronel (2013, USA). This is a small independent film made by a British director, starring US actress Vinessa Shaw in the title role and that British bloke from Eastenders, who had the shit kicked out of him by Captain Marvel in a deleted scene in, er, Captain Marvel which caused all the man-boys on social media to spontaneously burst into man-tears, in the other lead role. Shaw plays a woman who produces a pheromone so powerful she has to live in seclusion because men fall instantly in love with her (she appears as their fantasy mate to them), which obviously causes huge problems. Given what men are like. To women. Then along comes Robert Kazinsky, who appears to be unaffected by her chemical charms… because he has no sense of smell (knocked out of him by an Iraqi shell during the illegal US invasion and occupation of that country). Actual real love might blossom… There’s a none-too-subtle twist about three-quarters of the way in, but this wasn’t a bad little film at all. It handled its premise well, the two leads were watchable, and while the script wasn’t actively good it was better than that of many a tentpole blockbuster.

Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race, Timo Vuorensola (2019, Finland). If you haven’t seen Iron Sky, you won’t get much from the sequel. If you have seen Iron Sky, you’ll know whether or not you can be bothered to watch the sequel. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Iron Sky. While I found its humour a little puerile, the production design was great and the premise an absolute winner. To be fair, having previously seen all the Star Wreck films, I had some idea what to expect comedy-wise, so it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race manages to turn Iron Sky up to eleven in pretty much all areas… although the humour still remains chiefly juvenile and some of the jokes overstay their welcome. A home-built Russian UFO arrives at the heavily-damaged Nazi base on the dark side of the Moon, and its pilot agrees, after some violent drama, to take some of the (“good”) Nazis to the South Pole to find the Holy Grail in Agartha, the land inside the hollow earth, to save the moonbase. Which is where some other Nazis fled after WWII. Including Hitler. And various other incarnations of evil. Like, er, Steve Jobs. It turns out reptilian aliens colonised the Earth hundreds of millennia before, uplifted humans, and now live in Agartha, occasionally taking human form, such as the leader of the Nazi moonbase. As in the first film, there are some excellent sfx and a few really good set-pieces. The script varies wildly but presents an interesting group of characters. I remember seeing the advance publicity for Iron Sky and being excited about it… only to be a little disappointed by the final product. There’s been a lot of advance material about Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race, but it was harder to know what to make of its use of its references – Bulwer-Lytton! vril! hollow earth! Agartha! Hitler! secret Nazi South Pole bases! I mean, even if Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race were just like Iron Sky, there’d be plenty in there to entertain for those familiar with the mythos. That Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race turns its plot into an action story sort of works in its favour, but the juvenile glee the film takes in its premise and mythos acts slightly against that. Worth seeing… but I suspect you’d have to be a fan to watch it more than once.

Vox Lux, Brady Corbet (2018, USA). For an industry which has been creating celebrities out of nobodies for over a century, Hollywood seems strangely unable to tell a story on that topic in any meaningful or plausible way. And when it comes to Vox Lux, which appears to be a personal project of the director, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Or indeed when he was trying to say. A teenage girl survives a school shooting (if the US won’t introduce gun control, as the UK and New Zealand did after gun massacres, at least they’ll inspire some books and films…), and with her older sister writes a song in response, which becomes an internet hit. This kickstarts the girl’s career. Jump forward twenty years or so and now she’s a successful pop star. And she’s done all the self-destructive pop star things. And is still doing some of them. She also has a teenage daughter, who watches this behaviour from the sidelines with no power to stop it. Yawn. Then a terrorist shooting is linked to the singer because the terrorists wore masks that featured on a promo video of her biggest hit. Bit fucking tenuous. But this is not a film out to make much sense. In fact, in places it seems Corbet is more about the visuals than the story-telling, despite the former being an aspect of the latter. Natalie Portman puts in a good turn in the lead role, but she’s a quality actress. If you like films that are more style than substance, that add nothing to the genre of rock-star-in-decline movies, then you might enjoy this. Otherwise: don’t bother.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Roger Corman (1963, USA). The title is pretty much the plot of this classic B-movies from Corman’s New World Pictures. There is a man. He invents a substance which allows eyes to see across a much wider spectrum. He experiments on himself. Guess what happens. As his ability to “see” increases, so his mental stability worsens. It doesn’t help that star Ray Milland was once an A-lister and must have slid pretty far to end up in a Corman movie. But even his past reputation can’t save this. It also doesn’t help that he’s wearing a pair of silly circle lenses that clearly are none too comfortable. It’s all very formulaic, with the title explaining the villain and giving a big nod to the story. Milland comes a cropper in the end, of course he does. That’s how these sort of horror films work. On the other hand, there are some nice psychedelic effects, and the scene where Milland is at a party and can see through everyone’s clothes is probably what the movie is chiefly famous for. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is, I guess, worth seeing at least once. But only after several beers.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman (2018, USA). I’m not a fan of the MCU films, and I can pretty much take or leave 99% of animated movies. When I start seeing lots of praise from many different quarters for a film that is both of them… I’m going to be sceptical. But you never know, chances are I’d probably watch it at some point anyway, so why not sooner? And, well, it’s not really my bag, but once it had finished I was pretty much convinced it’s one of those animated movies that’s a complete game-changer. Like The Incredibles. It doesn’t just raise the bar, it shifts it to an entirely new level. The story was no great shakes, just fairly typical MCU bobbins, but the presentation was superb. Not just the animation, but the design, the use of the screen real estate, everything that made it an animated movie and not just a movie. The script was not terrible, perhaps even a cut above other MCU movies, but it’s not a film where the fact it’s a superhero film is its defining characteristic. So it’s a bit weird it’s won so many accolades, including an Oscar. I mean, an Oscar going to what actually might be an excellent film is something of a novelty. And yet, you can guess it’s not the story that led to those prize wins and nominations, it’s the way the film looks, the way it’s put together, and it’s a surprise to see that recognised so universally. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, as I said, immediately struck me as a game-changer, and its impact in the cinema world seems to demonstrate that. Whether anything will actually change is another matter. I suspect it will. I also suspect any sequel will prove disappointing. That seems to be the way it works. But definitely see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. You will not be disappointed.

Badrinath ki Dulhania, Sashank Khaitan (2017, India). Pretty much every Bollywood movie goes something like this: boy meets girl, something happens, boy loses girl, something else happens, boy gets girl back. Happy end. It’s a very successful formula and it’s produced some very entertaining Bollywood films. Like this one. In Badrinath ki Dulhania, you have the wastrel son of a rich man, who doesn’t want an arranged marriage because he’s seen how unhappy one has made his elder brother. Wastrel son falls in love with a spirited and educated young woman and eventually manages to persuade her to marry him. But she jilts him at the altar. He tracks her down to Singapore, where she’s training to become cabin crew for an airline. After much arguing, and an overnight stay in jail, he mends his ways and the two are finally reconciled. Happy end. Much singing and dancing along the way, of course. The movie makes some important points about dowries and women’s roles and expectations, despite being pretty light-hearted Bollywood rom com entertainment (quite a few twenty-first century Bollywood films are good on gender politics commentary in present-day India, better than Hollywood, in fact). I picked this film at random from the large number of Bollywood films on Amazon Prime (including most of Guru Dutt’s films! Watch them!), and enjoyed it a great deal. A good one.

1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die count: 940

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