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Merchants of Doubt (2014)
The director overreaches when he pans climate skeptics
I had no problem with much of this documentary, but I cannot agree with its conclusions on global warming. Publications such as Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery's "Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1,500 Years" is a well researched book that has been well received by the scientific community. The earth's climate has in the past been much warmer and much colder than it is today and many of these shifts occurred back when the human race numbered less than one million people. What is truly alarming is that the most vitally important fact finding mission ever conceived got shelved by the George W Bush Dick Cheney administration in 2000. The Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (Triana) was finally launched this February, after 15+ years in mothballs. At long last we will have precise measurements of the earth's climate budget - the amount of the sun's radiation earth receives and how much energy it radiates back into space - ergo a quantitative measurement of the greenhouse effect. This will finally determine whether we can believe the climate skeptics or the eco-terrorists. I find this sort of science far more satisfying than the study of growth rings of Moroccan Atlas cedar trees, or a stalagmite formation that grew in a Scottish cave beneath a peat bog. I find organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace to be far more culpable of yellow journalism and the dissemination of misinformation than any of the so-called merchants of climate doubt.
The Contender (2000)
The gold standard against which all political thrillers will be judged.
Wow! No matter how many times I watch this movie I am still mesmerized by Rod Lurie's spellbinding script and brilliant directing. Lurie brought out the best in his cast, Joan Allen was great but it was Gary Oldman's depiction of the complex and enigmatic Shelly Runyon that was truly masterly. Even classics like "All the President's Men" are eclipsed by this movie. When making comparison's I suppose one must also consider Otto Preminger's 1962 effort "Advise and Consent", a movie not even discussed in The Contender's bonus materials. Despite a remarkable cast and a heralded director, Advise & Consent, alas, deserves the relative obscurity it enjoys today, (it bombed in 1962) I had trouble staying awake through the turgid performance of an ailing Charles Laughton. Political dramas are not easy to pull off, cinema audiences are much more savvy and sophisticated today. "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" seems so naive it's hard to believe even 1939 audiences bought it. As far as The Contender's realism is concerned, wouldn't it be great to hear the opinions of Washington insiders like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Condoleezza Rice? assuming they took time out to watch this movie. One thing I just can't get my head around is why such a brilliant filmmaker as Rod Lurie would waste his talent on a remake of "Straw Dogs". Unbelievable!
Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
What a Huge Embarrassment for British Cinema
1967 was a bad year for British Cinema. As if Casino Royale wasn't ludicrous enough, Ken Russel made this clunker his debut on the big screen. In their heyday, cinemas used to hand out cardboard face masks with red and green lenses; alas in 1967 there were no usherettes issuing clothespins that the hapless audiences could clip on their noses. Speaking of noses, one of the film's saving graces was the miscasting of Karl Malden with that hilarious nose with a tip shaped like a woman's butt, Malden was the only actor who could make Jimmy Durante look handsome. Having never had the misfortune of reading Len Deighton's novel, I'm not sure whether to blame him or John McGrath for the awful script. However often producers rely on an audience's ability to suspend disbelief, facts are still facts. YOU CAN'T BREED DEADLY VIRUSES OUTSIDE A HUMAN HOST, CERTAINLY NOT IN EGGS OR PETRI DISHES. The film's other saving grace is the casting of Ed Begley as Gen. Midwinter, an over-the-top demagogue, who seems to be a hybrid of Barry Goldwater and H. Ross Perot with a generous dash of T. Boone Pickens. LOL
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Meticulously accurate production design, but sloppy historical accuracy in the plot.
In my view, the one good thing that came out of this mess was the revival of traditional shipbuilding skills in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia for the reconstruction of an enlarged version of the original 1787 Royal Navy sailing ship HMS Bounty. I seriously doubt if anyone could recruit shipbuilders with the requisite skills today. Tragically the ship sank off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy on 29 October 2012. Since MGM went to such trouble and expense to reproduce the ship accurately I wonder if similar pains were taken over other aspects of historical accuracy. The (mis)casting of Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian certainly enhanced Brando's reputation as box office poison. The casting of Trevor Howard as Captain William Bligh is interesting. Depicting a 50-year-old man receiving his first command of a ship would strongly suggest he did not have the right stuff. In point of fact, William Bligh was only 33 when appointed Commanding lieutenant of HMS Bounty in 1787. Bligh was later promoted to commodore and Governor of New South Wales, hardly the career path of an incompetent martinet.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
One of polanski's best (spoiler)
Deft use of irony, suspense and economical story telling makes for a satisfying movie, well worth the cost of two tickets, a baby sitter and a restaurant meal with wine. I feel sure that Alfred Hitchcock would have admired it immensely. Hitch's weakness in his later years was his inability to find really good scripts; Polanski's instincts are much sounder. The Ghost Writer is lightly unusual Polanski fare in that a key villain gets his just deserts. Usually, in Polanski's sick and twisted film world, it's evildoers that dodge the bullets and live happily ever after while the righteous heroes suffer a cruel fate. Only in the final 10 minutes does Polanski bring his plot back into line with his time-honored "no good deed goes unpunished" genre.
It Follows (2014)
The best supernatural horror flick I've seen in 40 years
Most critics allude to young writer/director David Robert Mitchell's gem as having "borrowed" from previous teen slasher movies such as Halloween etc. I beg to differ, I suspect the author marches to the beat of a very different drummer. Perhaps David Rose's 1988 "Paperhouse" was an influence, in the way its supernatural happenings follow a rigidly structured contextual logic? But I also wonder if the director ever read works by Dr M.R. James? I see many ideas from the late M.R. James's tales in the plot structure. "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad": a terrifying ghost comes after a hapless professor through an artifact discovered in the ruins of a templars' preceptory. "Canon Alberic's Scrap Book" a sacristan rids himself of a malevolent demon by selling priceless manuscripts to an unsuspecting collector. "Casting the Runes": the victim narrowly escapes death by surreptitiously returning the runic manuscript to its perpetrator. "A warning to the Curious": the vindictive ghost tricks his victim into following him to his doom by imitating his two companions. Few young authors get it so right so early in their careers; Mitchell has the keen instinct to avoid all the usual plot clichés, gratuitous boo moments and silliness that have ruined 99% of those unwatchable failures of this genre. I enjoyed this movie so much, I'm almost tempted to try my hand at writing a script of my own.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
On the whole a good movie with a few flaws
There are times while watching this movie that you have to suspend disbelief. I could not believe that someone as smart as the Jackal would jeopardize the most important assignment of his career to have a casual affair with a married woman and then go back to her. Another flaw is the seemingly effortless murders of the forger and Madame Montpellier. Hitcock went to great pains to demonstrate how hard it is to take a human life in his film Torn Curtain, Fred Zinneman apparently never watched that movie. Last but not least, even in the stultifying bureacracy of the Elysee Palace, I refuse to believe the French Ministers were ever that incredibly stupid.
A very interesting plot idea. But weak character development.
A very interesting plot idea. Emotionally charged, superb acting some good humour All in all a very creditable effort on what have been a very limited budget. My main criticism of the film is the character development. Celia and Martin seem unresolved and don't quite add up / ring true. For instance, Celia lives in a fairly large house, drives a BMW, spends quite a bit of money on her hobby (photography) and apparently manages to pay for all this on the meagre earnings of a housekeeper. It's much the same with Martin, he doesn't appear to have a regular job; he seems so misogynistic I can't quite visualize him working with the blind. Martin eats out quite a bit and is an avid photographer. So, do we assume Martin balances his budget by collecting a disability cheque from the Australian government? Did he inherit his house? I'm not a details freak, but I find it hard to suspend disbelief when someone lives lavishly on social assistance, or menial housework
Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
The Church is Destroying Itself From the Inside
In a terrible way, that monster Oliver O'Grady has rendered a service to the human race. He and others like him have set off deafening alarm bells. He illustrates the moral insanity of someone in a position of trust who is governed by his hormones and not his religious precepts. O'Grady has called into question not only the "infallibility" of the church hierarchy all the way to the top, but has left the seeds of profound doubt as to the power of prayer to protect the vulnerable from evil. People who attack the Catholic Church from the outside usually only succeed in stiffening the resolve of its followers to continue with renewed faith. It's the hypocrites and dogmatists within the church who inflict the mortal damage that may eventually consign it to the scrap book of history. Any religion or spiritual institution worthy of preservation must contain its own safety mechanism built within its very precepts. I recall, following a recent sex scandal in the media, a televised town hall meeting in which a conceited and arrogant Catholic lobbyist harangued the audience (mostly Catholics) with her usual spiel, "no salvation outside the church", "sexual abuse is far more prevalent outside of the church", "no place for women in the priesthood", etc, etc. When asked what was the problem the church had with women priests she smugly retorted: "according to the bible, how many women disciples did Christ have?". I felt like responding "best evidence suggests Jesus died on the cross before he was 30 and his disciples were also in their 20's, how come the median age of a new pope in recent times is 63 years?" - but I abstained from commenting. As the audience became increasingly restive and annoyed by her delivery, I became increasingly content; "keep up the good work ma'am, you're message is accelerating the church's eventual demise; a reformed Catholic Church might have struggled on for another 1000 years.
Being There (1979)
A Truly Inspired Masterpiece
The combined talents of Jerzy Kosinski and Hal Ashby have produced a rare gem of a comedy movie. The timing of this movie is uncanny; the story of a complete imbecile who rose to the highest office and less than a year after its theatrical release Ronald Regan would be in the Whitehouse! The most abundant element in the universe is not hydrogen, it is stupidity. - Frank Zappa
The acting in this movie is superb, even the supporting cast's performances are flawless. On the subject of timing, what a shame Peter Sellers went on to star in a moronic piece of garbage called the "Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu", "Being There" would have been the perfect culmination of his film career. Oh well.