Blu-Ray Review: Paper Moon

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Screenplay: Alvin Sargent
Based on a Book by: Joe David Brown
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn
Country: USA
Running Time: 102 min
Year: 1973
BBFC Certificate: PG


Peter Bogdanovich had a remarkable start to his directorial career. After training as an actor in the 50’s, working as a film programmer for MOMA and a film journalist, he eventually turned his hand to directing with the well received Targets, produced by Roger Corman. We’ll ignore Voyage to the Planet of the Prehistoric Women (when Bogdanovich worked under the pseudonym Derek Thomas) and say that the next three films he made were all critical and/or commercial successes. In 1971, The Last Picture Show (which I shamefully have yet to see) wowed everyone and the following year he made the hit comedy What’s Up, Doc? starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, then in 1973 he released the Oscar-winning Paper Moon. Bogdanovich was box office gold and a darling with the critics (although Paper Moon had a few detractors), but from then on his career made one of the most spectacular nose dives in cinema history. Everything since has been mediocre or a curiosity at best and it’s hard to see how that happened. From the extra features included with this new re-release of Paper Moon it doesn’t sound like Bogdanovich had a hard time and the success shouldn’t have harmed him, but for whatever reason, he never regained his momentum.

Rather than lamenting the director’s decline though, let’s celebrate one of his cast iron classics.

Paper Moon sees low rent con man Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal) saddled with a newly orphaned girl, Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal), who may or may not be his daughter. He is to send the girl to her aunt in Missouri, but after the sharp 9 year old cottons on to Moses’ scam which earned him $200 from the death of her mother, Addie demands he repays the money to her. Having spent it already, Moses is forced to tow her along whilst he swindles the money out of local widowers through his bible salesman shtick.

Addie isn’t as dumb and innocent as you’d think of a girl her age though and it soon becomes clear that she can teach Moses a thing or two about grifting. So the two become a con double act, robbing the American public (who are suffering from the effects of the Great Depression) along their trip across the state. As well as improving his less honourable skills, Addie gradually helps Moses become a slightly more responsible and honest man too, which leads to a final dilemma as to what to do with the young girl.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Good Kill

“Keep compartmentalizing” is a piece of advice from a commanding officer to his ace pilot. This is darkly humourous, intelligent screenwriting because these drone-piloting soldiers spend 12 hours a day literally inside a box, albeit an air-conditioned one filled to the brim with technology, with fresh coffee available if needs be.

A day of drone warfare fought, the service men and women leave the base and go home to BBQ with their family and drink beer in the nearby Las Vegas suburb, a pebble-lawned stretch of cookie cutter banality not far away from the dazzling gratuitousness of The Strip. Things go from grim but necessary to deeply disturbing slowly but inevitably, and often didactically, in Good Kill.

The film focuses on Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke), a former F-16 pilot and a veteran of many tours. He is now ‘grounded’ in the tiny box on wheels enacting a play-station war; one of low risk of physical harm (barring carpal tunnel syndrome) on which he compensates by making the damage 100% psychological. Egan’s icy disposition and years of experience make him one of the current top performers in piloting drones.

Hawke’s performance is miles apart from his life-long work with Richard Linklater, not to mention as different as possible from the testosterone meathead cinema-depictions of fighter pilots in thrill oriented blockbusters like Top Gun and its numerous copy cats. Egan ignores the gung-ho nature of the two tech support co-workers, the young guys that keep the communications to the remotely piloted aircraft humming along. Egan is quietly respectful of the competence of his equally young female co-pilot (ZoĆ« Kravitz) while carrying out any order from his commanding officer (Bruce Greenwood, who gets all the good lines and let’s face it, is a national goddamn treasure).

Would you like to know more…?

Clips from Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster

Not exactly a trailer, but given the general weirdness intrinsic to the films of Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, ALPS), they could function as one. Much like his French contemporary, Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Wrong), film-language and odd characters are the driving force to understanding the extreme ends of human behavior.

An architect checks into a hotel after his wife leaves him. Set in a society that highly values relationships, the architect has but 45 days to find a new partner or else he will be transformed into an animal of his choosing.

The Lobster is currently playing at Cannes, Lanthimos has a cast of international stars including Collin Farell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and Lea Seydoux. Watch some of them speak in sublimely weird ways in the two clips which are tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: The Silenced

I have always been a fan of South Korean posters. They take a simple still, color and buff the hell out of it, and do not clutter it up with much else beyond a title and a release date. Often there is no credit block.

Such is the case here, for the upcoming horror-mystery film The Silenced. Beautiful symmetry of women standing in file, with the lead character (played by Park Bo-Young) looking pleadingly at the camera and the head of the institution facing away at the end of the line. This kind of poster tells you everything you need to know, tonally, without giving anything away plot-wise, and it does it with grace.

Also, I have tucked the trailer, which features some pretty lush production design, under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Mad Max Fury Road

There and back again, a breeders tale.

When you boil all of the fireworks and prop-fetish out of the latest Mad Max film, Fury Road, you really have simplicity. The women are fed up with the men using them as chattel – literally, as seen in a human dairy farm made for the purposes of feeding the big-bad, Immorten Joe, and his mutant children, ‘mothers milk.’ The remaining, less tethered, women decide to leave, but then, given few options for emigration in a desert planet, decide to return. Vehicular mayhem of the likes never put up on screen in the history of cinema ensues. And there are consequences of upsetting the social order of things, mostly the crashing and burning of things, but a few lessons are learned along the way.

Mad Max, at least in the ever-increasing-in-budget sequels, has always been the iconic Ronin who wanders into town, tipping the scale of social order by his masculine independence. He is a symbol in a world of warlords and cowering, dirty plebian peasants.

In the rather muddled opening prologue seemingly run at 1.5x speed and laden with superfluous micro-flashbacks of the disappointed children who have taken root in Max’s subconscious, Max is captured by Immorten Joe’s ‘War Boys,’ stripped of his V8 Interceptor, and arrives at the Citadel to coincide with the younger women, those not tied to a milking apparatus, making their exodus. The gambit involves the outposts only female warrior, Charlize Theron here a hard-beaten alloy of Pris, Cherry Darling, Meredith Vickers, and Sarah Connor folded to steel and decorated in cosmetic axel-grease foundation. Imperator Furiosa has a plan to smuggle out the last of humanity’s corn-fed center-fold DNA to the mythical ‘green place,’ beyond the desert sandstorms under the guise of a regular gasoline and ammunition resupply run. Joe straps on his Vader-meets-Bane breathing apparatus and engages in pursuit. Max gets entangled.

Fury Road is essentially a remake of the (superior) template-setting 1981 sequel, The Road Warrior. It replaces gasoline with lady-flesh clad in fluttery white maternity wear, and aims to get way-the-fuck-beyond the Thunderdome. This is helped considerably by hundreds of millions of 21st century studio dollars. For George Miller nerds, there are enough callbacks to the original films (from actors to onscreen images) to fuel a good sized jerrycan. The wild practical stunts involving vehicles and men leaping from car to truck to monster-truck, or dangling from poles and any number of resulting slap-stick visual gags buried in a modern CGI spectacle reminded me more of the set-pieces in Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger than George Miller’s previous desert chases. Perhaps this seeded the desire for the film to be about how we watch these kind of movies. Maybe it is.

Would you like to know more…?

Second Trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak

Just in time for Halloween, Guillermo del Toro has got our backs. Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston star as some sort of budding romance is befuddled by their living environment; an old mansion with spooky secrets and haunted realms within the walls. Unfortunately every movie these days has to star Jessica Chastain, so she’s in here too.

The gorgeous cinematography and creative set design looks to be more than enough to offset any other superficial complaints I may have. It will be fun to have a truly, good ol’ fashioned haunted house story just as the leaves are beginning to drop and the cold wind is howling. In other words, October 16th. Have a look at the newest trailer for Crimson Peak.

 

 

Cinecast Episode 395 – Have an Exit Strategy

The multiplex continues to bore Kurt and Andrew, who have no interest in costumed heroes or a uniformed Reese Witherspoon. So it is off to Argentina for the Oscar nominated anthology film, Wild Tales. Game of Thrones hits the half-way mark and Kurt may have finally convinced Andrew of a) just how tedious things in Meereen have gotten, b) how much Stannis Baratheon has come into his own this season, and c) the power of a good long shot.

The watch-list creates a divide in taste on music and documentary form with Brett Morgan’s Montage of Heck. The strengths and weakness of Wes Craven’s The New Nightmare are discussed, along with a tangent on lost concept over-spill resulting from sold out movies. Don’t Look Now, but there is more Nic Roeg discussion on the Cinecast. As is the case of Kevin Costner, Shawn Levy and the race to the middle(brow). Finally, Alex Gibney’s Scientology doc, Going Clear is compared and contrasted with PTA’s The Master, for dos and don’ts in filmmaking.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Jem And The Holograms

Less eighties cartoon, more YouTube and Katy Perry fame shenanigans. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this latest Hasbro re-invention of its me-decade intellectual property for the big screen. Somehow the trailer evokes the bitter-sweet joys of The Fault in Our Stars and seems as far as possible from the satirical jokiness of Josie and The Pussycats.

Admittedly, I am nowhere near the demographic of this film, but I implore you, completely without any sort of snark or snobbery, to please tell me if the execution of this idea is good or simply horrible. Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald (the two patron saints of good/horrible) make supporting role appearances in the trailer below.