Talking Movies

November 10, 2019

Notes on Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep, the very belated sequel to The Shining, was the catch-up film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Rising horror maestro Mike Flanagan attempts to reconcile the book of The Shining with the movie of The Shining while at the same time making a sequel that is nothing like The Shining. No wonder this is 2 hours 30 minutes. And yet it is above all things a leisurely movie. If it were better one would compare it to how David Fincher let The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo breathe by burrowing into character and mystery. But such a comparison is unearned, instead there is a more apt (and dreaded) comparison to Ready Player One. Spielberg recreated the Overlook Hotel in CGI, and Flanagan resurrects a gargantuan set, but in both cases once the initial thrill wears off you realise you are essentially on a ride at a nostalgia theme park – the recognition is all, nothing of great pith or moment or heavens preserve us originality is going to happen here. Besides which Doctor Sleep is not very scary for most of its running time, it’s perfectly agreeable but as it goes nowhere goodwill evaporates afterward.

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October 31, 2019

Notes on Countdown

Countdown was the film of the week for a special PG-13 horror Hallowe’en edition of Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

It’s almost hard to believe that Countdown wasn’t produced by Jason Blum. There is a certain Happy Death Day quality to proceedings, although this is far darker in tone; pushing the PG-13 rating to the limit with its demon CGI FX. The cold open certainly puts one in mind of Scream, sketching in the plot and tone of the film with great economy. The dread it generates is replicated numerous times before it starts to lose its effectiveness. Meanwhile Elizabeth Lail continues the odd flashback vibe as she seems to be channelling Kellie Martin’s ER role.

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October 20, 2019

Notes on Dark Lies the Island

Dark Lies the Island was the Irish film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

A Film with me in it director Ian Fitzgibbon teams up with author Kevin Barry for a feature film spun out from characters in Barry’s short story collections Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. A top Irish cast is assembled for this tale of family feuds and criminal mysteries in the Northwest. The fictional town of Dromord is presided over by Daddy Mannion (Pat Shortt), and the inhabitants have a nasty habit of chucking themselves in the lake because of existential despair. Daddy’s wife Sarah (Charlie Murphy) is worried that her alienated daughter Saoirse may be next in line for this. But as she continues an affair with her step-son Martin (Moe Dunford), while continuing to care for her ex-boyfriend, her other step-son Doggy (Peter Coonan), it may be less a question of who throws themselves into the lake than who gets thrown into it to suffer the green bloat.

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October 14, 2019

Notes on Gemini Man

Will Smith’s Gemini Man was the underwhelming film of the week early yesterday morning on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Watching Gemini Man is a disconcerting experience, and not just because of the uncanny valley effect that (and this is very baffling) intermittently afflicts scenes with the CGI’d 1990s Will Smith. No, what truly disorients is that Ang Lee, director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sense & Sensibility, has made a film of very occasional muddled and dull action surrounded by a cast of fine actors (Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Clive Owen) mumbling their way blankly thru endless tedious exposition in an idiotic script that waits for about 55 minutes to reveal what we know from the poster in the cinema lobby – that Will Smith is being hunted by his younger clone. David Benioff and Billy Ray are given the lion’s share of the credit for this mess after 20 odd years of development hell and one can only dream of what Andrew Niccol’s draft of this material might have done with the philosophical implications of cloning because this movie has zip interest except as a stepping stone to a shootout.

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October 6, 2019

Notes on Joker

Joaquin Phoenix’s turn in Joker was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Todd Phillips gets by with a little help from his friends; Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Alan Moore and Frank Miller. No joke, Joker will frequently leave you with your jaw on the floor as ideas, scenes, camera moves, style and sequences are lifted from other, better films. If you have seen The King of Comedy or Fight Club or House MD you will be getting some severe deja vu. Joker is grimly impressive, from Mark Friedberg’s decrepit production design modelled on the awful appearance of NYC of the mid 1970s, to the artfully framed and held cinematography of Lawrence Sher imitating to a tee the work of Michael Chapman, Jeff Cronenweth and Wally Pfister, to the oppressive score from Hildur Gudnadottir which adds featured drums and horns to the Zimmer dissonant strings approach to the character. But all these production values can’t hide the emptiness of this enterprise. You show nothing of your own work Todd Phillips, how this film won a Golden Lion at Venice is amazing, as Marshall MacLuhan might say.

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Notes on Judy

Judy was the secondary film of the week in an innovation much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

The finances of Judy Garland (Zellweger) are perpetually in a state of vague distress. When she is forced to house her children at the home of their father Sidney (Rufus Sewell), after her hotel releases her suite, she finds herself accepting a five week engagement in London over Christmas 1968 to try and raise some quick cash. Impresario Delfont (Michael Gambon), his fixer Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley), and bandleader Burt (Royce Pierreson) are unprepared for the ramshackle performer who arrives, despite her reputation. Adding to the volatility is her unwise romance with much younger musician Mickey (Finn Wittrock), who she meets at a party where daughter Liza (Gemma-Leah Deveraux) reveals she is about to star in a musical. Such breaks are beyond Judy at this point; her voice and body failing after years of substance abuse, these concerts become a swansong.

Judy isn’t as colourful as one might hope from director Rupert Goold of the Almeida Theatre. Instead it feels an awful lot like the sumptuous but sedate My Week with Marilyn, another BBC Films biopic of an American starlet in post-war London that was simply straining itself to earn Oscar nods. Production designer Kave Quinn and costume designer Jany Temime do a sterling job of recreating a late 1960s London that feels by turns swinging and solid, but the screenplay by Tom Edge; reshaping Peter Quilter’s play and fleshing out Judy’s mistreatment by Louis B Mayer (Richard Cordery in a highly creepy performance perhaps informed by Harvey Weinstein); only occasionally reaches high notes of emotion or insight. On the whole proceedings are quite dull.

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September 29, 2019

Notes on Ready or Not

Shlocky horror-comedy Ready or Not was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

It is semi-remarkable that this is the work of directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who made the found footage Rosemary’s Baby riff Devil’s Due that (apparently unwittingly) used the Euro sign as a Satanic symbol. Admittedly Ready or Not boasts a far better script, by Guy Busick (Urge) and (no, not that) Ryan Murphy, but it also looks gorgeous. Andrew M Stearn’s production design for the De Lomas mansion and grounds are lit by Brett Jutkiewicz to bring out the warmth of the wood panelling and lamps and to cast us into a more Fincheresque colour scheme outdoors. Meanwhile in support John Ralston as major-domo Stevens gamely plays a kitchen sequence of Hitchcockian delight and a truly delirious conceit that would do Scream proud; featuring the most improbable and incredibly inopportune rocking along to Tchaikovksy’s 1812 Overture imaginable.

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September 22, 2019

Notes on Ad Astra

Brad Pitt’s sci-fi Ad Astra was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Pitt is Roy McBridge, son of legendary lost astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). Roy is renowned for having a preternaturally low pulse rate, never above 80, even in a crisis; such as at the start where he falls to earth off an atmosphere-scraping antennae following ‘The Surge’. He simply waits to stop spinning, thendeploys his parachute; no point getting het up about it. The Surge killed 43,000 people but, it transpires, is only the beginning. It was caused by a wave of anti-matter attacking the planet as it courses across the solar system, growing in power as it travels from its origin off Neptune. Which as John Finn and John Ortiz’s brass inform Roy is where Project Lima is, and where they believe Clifford is alive and well and liable to end all life unless dissuaded by Roy.

It’s a minor miracle that neither Finn nor Ortiz instructs Roy to terminate Clifford’s command, with extreme prejudice. Because this is a film in thrall to Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad; Clifford’s out there operating without any decent restraint, and the journey to save or end him will be psychological as much as physical. Donald Sutherland’s mentor Colonel Pruitt and Ruth Negga’s enigmatic Martian pop up for an allotted span of time much like characters in Apocalypse Now, as Roy travels from vignette to vignette on his quest. There’s an unlikely action sequence on the surface of the Moon as this dystopian future paints the orb wracked by conflict between competing miners and pirates preying on their divisions. A tense sequence responding to an SOS while en route to Mars might as well proclaim “Never get out of the boat”.

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September 15, 2019

Notes on Extra Ordinary

Irish comedy-horror Extra Ordinary (sic) was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Extra Ordinary left me feeling unmoored in time and space. Everybody seems to be using Nokia phones from at least fifteen years ago without mentioning that this is not set now. And while initial aerial shots of flat fields and peat bogs seem to locate us in the Midlands as the film goes on more and more the accents bend towards Cork. At least something was easy to grab hold of with both hands: the ‘twist’. Will Forte, playing a mockery of Chris De Burgh as ‘Cosmic Woman’ one-hit wonder Christian Winter, decides to make a deal with the devil. But he must make a sacrifice. When his abrasive girlfriend (Claudia O’Doherty) explodes their intended sacrifice, he must find another pronto. And his triumphant moment of villainy early in the film has a note of ambiguity which I noted unambiguously, hoped it wasn’t going to be a ‘twist’, and then an hour later was hit over the head with as the twist. Rarely has the pay-off of a plant annoyed me so much. And not only that but how this twist was then resolved.

Forte paints in the broadest of brush strokes, as does O’Doherty, while Jimmy’s Hall star Barry Ward as the posthumously henpecked Martin Martin takes full advantage of showing off his range as he is possessed by a range of ghosts including his dead wife Bonnie. Also a presence from beyond the grave, via a preposterous VHS series on ‘The Talents’ (think the Shining) is a glorious Risteard Cooper as a pompous 1980s paranormalist. Against all this madness Maeve Higgins’ driving instructor Rose ends up being the straight man, grounding the film so that everyone else can go over the top. There are some wonderful conceits in the film (Forte’s business with gloves, a high-stakes chase at a very low speed), and Frank cinematographer James Mather makes the film look better than it has any right to be. And yet for all that I did not like it. I can see that there is much good in it, but the increasing gore and ludicrousness saw me zoning further and further out.

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September 8, 2019

Notes on IT: Chapter Two

The epic horror adaptation IT: Chapter Two was the film of the week earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

IT: Chapter Two is looooong. 2 hours 49 minutes long. It takes damn near as long to tell half the Stephen King story as the 1990 mini-series did to tell the whole story. And while there are undeniably good scares and some sequences of genuine dread, I came away with a feeling of dis-satisfaction; feeling that somehow the 1990 mini-series had done more in less time than this bloated shocker. Honest Trailers mocked the TV network censorship of the mini-series, and yet the almost parodic plethora of F-bombs masquerading as considered dialogue in this movie make you yearn for Taste & Decency. The practical effects of the Chinese restaurant scene are predictably swapped out for CGI, which of course isn’t nearly as effective a gross-out; and indeed the CGI gets so out of control that by the end we are confronted with the great cliche of our times – the giant swirling trashcan in the sky. I was always dubious about abandoning King’s structure to have a Losers Club as kids movie, and then a sequel if it went well, rather than the two-parter Cary Fukunaga intended which would flesh out King’s story with more detail and more gore.

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