Archives for the month of: May, 2018

“Disney made a movie about Polynesia” is not a sentence calculated to get me to buy a ticket. “Jemaine Clement plays a giant evil crab” might have done better, but no one told me.

MV5BMjI4MzU5NTExNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTEwMDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Moana is really good. It’s simple, compelling, and well-executed. Also gorgeous. A young Polynesian woman (Auli’i Cravalho) is raised to be the chief of her island. She has a kooky and mystical grandmother (the inimitable Rachel House), a cute pig, and a very stupid chicken. Then things on the island start to die, and Moana must go on a quest to restore the heart (a small jade token) to the goddess Te Fiti. To do this, she enlists the help of the demigod Maui. Who is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Obviously.

He is arrogant and hilarious; she is naïve but plucky.  They encounter monsters, gods, and the ocean, which is usually on their side but also can get tetchy. The best of these is a giant crab called Tamatoa, who is the god of something or other and is voiced side-splittingly by Jemaine Clement.

Romance at no point enters the story, even in negation. This is markedly better than the treatment in Brave or Frozen. In fact, across the board Moana is much more the girl-power film those were trying to be. And as far as I can tell it’s not racist.

Stray observations:

  • Like, Moana, I’m excited for your freedom and self-actualization and stuff but you literally don’t know how to handle an out-rigger and it was stupid to steal one and head off by yourself.
  • The coconut pirates are baffling and unnecessary.
  • “Oh, I see. She’s taken a barnacle, and she’s covered it in bioluminescent algae. As a diversion.”

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Rating: PG
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 4/5

Advertisements

MV5BYWY5ZjhjNGYtZmI2Ny00ODM0LWFkNzgtZmI1YzA2N2MxMzA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_.jpgThis movie is perfect.

In it, you watch a man go mad as European empires destroy the Middle East on purpose.

It is not happy.

T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole, terrifyingly young and beautiful) is seconded from his minor post in an office in Cairo to the Arab revolt against the Turks, under Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness). His companions in this are Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), whom we meet when he shoots, sight unseen, a man drinking from one of his wells, and Harry Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who puts in a masterful performance as a stolid and unimaginative British soldier. There are some higher-ups about, as well: General Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and the éminence grise Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains, who incidentally lets you get from Humphrey Bogart to Orlando Bloom in three moves).

There to help you with the difficult bits is an American reporter (Arthur Kennedy), who asks Lawrence pertinent questions to which he can give dotty answers, and documents the whole spectacular swashbuckling thing.

And it is spectacular. Lawrence swans about in white robes, his followers achieve the impossible, and even the Army in Cairo gives grudging and then unstinting respect. Then of course it goes badly and the War barrels towards its close and we, Lawrence, and Harry watch Dryden mention a Mr. Sykes and a Mr. Picot and Feisal make one or two extremely cutting remarks and it is emotionally draining.

No expense was spared in the production and it is splendid. The soundtrack you have heard and it it is great. The film is slow, but this is not old-fashioned pacing; it is meant to convey the distances and the desperation. Nowadays Alec Guinness would not be cast as Prince Feisal nor Anthony Quinn as Auda; this is certainly some sort of victory but not necessarily a cinematic one. Sir Alec in particular is just really good in the role. He gets most of the best lines.

The story-telling is superb. It is surprisingly lacking in both moralizing and melodrama, but your sympathies are constantly shifting. Lawrence, from naïve but attractive, becomes horrible yet still compelling. Ali, who kills a man before you meet him, becomes in some ways the moral center of the piece. And Harry–watch Harry.

Stray observations:

  • What, in your opinion, do these people hope to gain from this war?” “They hope to gain their freedom. …Freedom.”
  • It is technically rated PG, but it is worse than that for anyone with a rudimentary imagination and sense of humanity.
  • Possibly I recommend breaking it over two days, both for convenience and palatability.
  • This is my favorite movie, and I think it is the best movie ever made.

Director: Sir David Lean
Rating: PG
Length: 216 minutes
Score: 5/5, but also unrateable

Remember when this movie came out? It was kind of a while ago and it’s difficult to recall my feelings on it. Wait, no it’s not. I loved it. I loved new Q. I loved Ralph Fiennes. I loved the Barbour jacket. I loved the theme song. I loved the old Aston.

Most of all, I loved that it wasn’t Quantum of Solace.

MV5BNDVhZmJiYWMtNmIzMC00ZWNiLTkzZDYtNGNlZmViMGM4OGExXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_But it turns out that this isn’t actually good, just by virtue of not being a steaming pile of garbage. Yes, it has everything you want out of a Bond movie: hot car, casino, some crack shooting, a fight on top of a train, rivers of booze. Many of these things it has more than once, as an apology for its precursor.

And therein lies the problem: this movie has far too many acts, even for a Bond movie. By my count, we have:

  • Istanbul
  • drunken obscurity
  • London
  • Shanghai
  • Macau
  • dumb island
  • London redux
  • the A-9
  • the Highlands

That is too much. Combine Shanghai and Macau. Leave out the dumb island. Maybe spend less time not eating scorpions in drunken obscurity. Or give the girl there at least one line.

Then you have time to spend on new Q (Ben Whishaw), who is a delight. Of course Q is now a tiny nerd! And time for the rest of MI-6, Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who inject a pleasingly average Britishness and a velvety steel respectively. I suppose you can also spend time on Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), but please let it be different time, and please let it be less sad, somehow. Old Moneypenny was less sad, possibly because she had less of a chance? I don’t know, but fix it.

Other than that, fine. Silva (Javier Bardem) is menacing; his face is weird and off-putting even when all of it is there. Severine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe) is very tall and very beautiful, so that’s nice. Kincade (Albert Finney) is old and great and dresses exclusively in Barbour. Judi Dench denches it up, and is magnificent because of course she is.

Oh: and Adele. Adele is perfect. Yelly, ballady, incomprehensible. Perfect Bond song.

Stray observations:

  • The elevator is cool and all but that’s a borderline Mission: Impossible stunt and these new Bonds are supposed to be vaguely within the realms of possibility.
  • Cut the shaving scene. Burn it with fire. It is nauseating and unsexy and unnecessary.
  • During M’s scene with Mallory, early in the film, the continuity people blow it badly with her briefcase. I noticed in the cinema.
  • What is the health and/or life insurance like as a henchman? Because I’m going to go with “not good enough.”

Director: Sam Mendes
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes, which is solidly half an hour too long
Score: 3/5