Flirting

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 1991 Australian movie, Flirting, is a sequel to a 1987 Australian movie The Year My Voice Broke, which is unavailable at Netflix and Amazon Prime. A US-playable DVD of that previous movie will set you back a cool $119.99 at Amazon.

Wow! Why the availability difference? Easy explanation for that: Flirting has Nicole Kidman (albeit in a supporting role) and The Year My Voice Broke does not. (This was, IMDB says, Nicole's last Australian feature before she hit it big internationally.)

Anyway: it's the story of Danny (Noah Taylor) and Thandiwe (Thandie Newton), at their respective adjacent boys-only and girls-only schools in early-1960s Australia. Both are unusual, Danny being a nerdy intellectual fond of Sartre and Marx, Thandiwe being from Africa.

(By the way, anyone familiar with Thandie Newton's later films will find her 16-year-old self hard to recognize here.)

Both must put up with the respective prejudices of their loutish classmates. But they eventually acquire friends too, and also eventually find each other. Romance blooms. And complications ensue.

So it's kind of a sweet coming-of-age movie. Unfortunately, Thandie Newton apparently got abused by the writer/director, John Duigan. Kind of a down-under Harvey Weinstein She took 20 years to reveal this, but judging by his IMDB page, he's not done a lot movie-wise since that revelation.

Justice League

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I was a little surprised I liked this movie as much as I did. It's a solid three stars: I was entertained for a couple hours, didn't fall asleep much, and don't think I would have regretted not seeing it.

Let me tell you, though: Gal Gadot probably added a star all by herself.

So at the end of the last movie, Superman was "dead". And the world is menaced, as worlds are, by Steppenwolf, who's looking to put together three powerful cubes of alien technology, and employs a lot of nasty flying monkeys to assist.

Batman is the first to notice the problem, realizes he doesn't have much of a chance to thwart this scheme on his own. So he recruits all the other superpeople he knows about: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, and a new guy "Cyborg", of whom I was previously unaware.

Still not good enough. But if you think Superman is going to stay dead, … well, of course not. We all know better.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This makes four out of last year's ten Oscar Best Picture nominees I've seen so far. Not too shabby. It didn't win Best Picture (booo!) but Brad Pitt got one for Best Supporting Actor, and it also got one for Production Design (which even I noticed was amazing). And it was nominated for seven more.

Just a quibble, though: Brad Pitt nominated for supporting actor? Come on. I think he had more screen time than Leonardo DiCaprio.

As an extra bonus, the New Yorker film critic calls this movie "obscenely regressive". No wonder I liked it so much.

Anyway: it follows buddies Rick Dalton (Leo) and Cliff Booth (Brad) in 1969 Hollywood. Rick is a fading action star: think Steve McQueen, if his career had fizzled after Wanted Dead or Alive. Cliff is his longtime stunt double, and personal chauffeur/gofer.

And Rick just happens to live next door to Roman Polanski's place in the Hollywood hills. Bouncy, bubbly, pregnant Sharon Tate is living there. And there are these filthy hippies hanging around, associated with (hey, that's Dewey Crowe) an aspiring musician named "Charlie". Oh oh.

It's a Quentin Tarantino flick, so there's a lot of swearing, smoking, and… surprisingly, not as much cynicism and violence as I would have expected. (Okay, there's a lot, but … just not as much as I would have expected.) QT clearly has a lot of affection for the time and place. And I had a lot of fun watching.

Aquaman

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I was prepared to kind of like this movie, but… eh. I kept thinking "Underwater Thor".

Why is it that I can totally buy into Captain America or Batman, and get so blah about Aquaman?

Anyway: this movie covers Aquaman's origin story. Mom was a queen of Atlantis, Dad was a lonely lighthouse keeper. They found love when Mom, injured while escaping from her oppressive underwater society, is nursed back to health. And then Aquababy was born. But soon Atlantean thugs show up, Mom goes back to the water, Aquababy becomes Aquakid, confronts bullies at the aquarium (really, that's pretty cool), and then goes on to become the AquaDude himself.

Then the rest of the plot happens, but it's absurd and not very interesting. An extra star for the aquarium scene, though.

Parasite

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

John Tamny at AIER writes: “Parasite” Is a Preposterous Film Rooted in Class-Struggle Nonsense. But by the time I read that, Netflix had already sent the DVD, so what are ya gonna do?

And in the meantime, it won the Best Picture Oscar. And (as I type) it's #21 on the IMDB list of the best movies of all time. So…

To save my sanity, I try to turn off the politics-obsessed part of my brain while watching movies. (That's like 80%, right?) Only if a flick gets really, obnoxiously, in my face about its slavish progressivism do I get a peeved. Revenge of the Sith, anyone?

Anyway, a Korean movie with (of course) English subtitles. A family in dire economic straits gets a glimmer of hope when their college-age poor son wangles, somewhat fraudulently, a job as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of a wealthy family. Then, completely fraudulently, the poor daughter wangles her way in as an art-therapist for the somewhat troubled young rich son. (The source of his troubles is revealed later.)

And then, even more underhandedly, poor Dad gets a job as the family's chauffeur by instilling unwarranted suspicions against his predecessor.

And to complete the quadfecta, poor Mom slithers into the housekeeper position.

And soon thereafter, things fall completely and violently apart. Could have been an actual comedy, but noooo.

Nocturnal Animals

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Even though Netflix told me I would find this movie mediocre at best, it came into "either move it to the top of the rental queue or delete it" territory.

And I chose… poorly. Maybe because I like Amy Adams.

Anyway: Amy plays Susan, who, as the movie opens, is running a very trendy art gallery. So trendy that it features morbidly obese, impossibly ugly naked women dancing and grimacing at the viewers. Susan is also coming to realize that her second marriage, like her artistic tastes, is falling apart.

Out of the blue a manuscript arrives from her first husband, Jake Gyllenhaal. It's a novel entitled Nocturnal Animals! The movie breaks into three tracks: present-day Susan, reading the novel, getting freaked out; the rise and fall of past-Susan's relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal; and the movie that's playing in Susan's head as she reads the manuscript, in which the main character is played by … Jake Gyllenhaal!

This sounds more clever than it actually is.

The movie-within-the-movie is more interesting than the other two threads, but not that much: fictional Jake, his wife, and young daughter are driving on a semi-deserted highway, when they manage to irk a car full of degenerates. Who proceed to force them off the road and … well, it's pretty unpleasant. Jake seeks revenge, in which he's aided by a near-vigilante lawman, played by Michael Shannon.

Everything's disturbing, nihilistic, degenerate. Not my cup of tea at all, sorry.

Unlocked

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A DVD that Netflix sent me, skipping over a number of items higher in my queue (e.g., Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Joker, The Farewell, Judy,…). Well, OK.

Noomi Rapace plays Alice, a CIA agent relegated to a trivial desk job due to (allegedly) failing to prevent a terrorist incident in Paris that killed a lot of innocents. She retains her interrogation skills, though, and the intelligence agency finds that she's needed to discover the communication channels used to set up a possible imminent bioterror attack somewhere in London.

Needless to say, things go wrong, with a considerable amount of gunplay. In addition to Noomi, there's John Malkovich as the (somewhat goofy) head of the CIA, Michael Douglas as Alice's one-time superior, Orlando Bloom as (perhaps) a British ex-Marine now burglarizing apartments, and Toni Colette as an MI-5 higher up.

I liked it a lot better than Atomic Blonde, probably because its provenance does not include comic books. And everything about Noomi Rapace screams "intelligence" while Charlize Theron screams "bimbo".

A lot of action and betrayal. One flaw: you know one of these stars is going to be Revealed as the prime Bad Guy, and it gets pretty obvious who it is. ("I don't think they'd hire that person to play this role, unless…")

And of course, a bunch of shady Arabs that could be terrorists. Not in modern-day cinema, friend.

The Disaster Artist

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The great TV drought continues. This is a perfectly decent little movie, watched via Amazon Prime streaming. Oscar-nominated for its adapted screenplay. But a best-actor Golden Globe win for James Franco; he was snubbed for the Oscar. Outrageous!

Franco plays the real-life Tommy Wiseau, who actually wrote, directed, and starred in a dreadful movie called The Room back in 2003. As this movie opens, he befriends Greg, a fellow talent-free actor bumming around San Francisco. They decide to pursue their Hollywood dreams… er, in Hollywood. Where else you gonna do it?

It helps that Tommy has access to loads of cash. (Unexplained.) He finds plenty of people willing to work, only occasionally bemoaning the incoherent plot, the brutal working conditions on which Tommy insists, and Tommy's bizarre accent. (Also unexplained, except Tommy claiming it's from New Orleans.)

Will the movie actually happen? Sure. Will it be remembered? Only as an example of how weird things can get in Hollywood. The Room is #62 on IMDB's bottom-rated movies of all time, which is sort of an achievement.

Alien: Covenant

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Yet another Alien movie! I remember seeing the first one at (I think) DC's Uptown theater back in 1979. And being antsy on the way home afterward imagining monsters lurking in every dark corner. Fortunately, this one I watched, over forty years later, in my well-lit New Hampshire living room, and had no creepy premonitions of being facehugged by a space lobster.

This is a sequel to 2012's Prometheus, the second in a planned trilogy of prequels to Alien. It concerns the misadventures of the colonization ship Covenant, bound for a happy new planet with a couple thousand colonists in hibernation, monitored by android Walter and the ship's computer, Mother.

Alas, a wayward neutrino pulse causes havoc with the ship's systems, awakening the ship's crew, and managing to kill one of them. And they notice an even happier planet much nearer than their original destination. Let's go there!

Fortunately, the only sensible crewmember, a young lady named Ripley Daniels, convinces everybody to stick to the original plan, and the mission proceeds with no further problems.

Just kidding! Daniels' pleas fall on deaf ears, and they're off to the new planet, Which turns out to be, more or less, filled with hostile beasties! And also (it turns out) David, from the previous movie. What's he been up to?

Anyway, it's decent. If they make another one, I'll probably watch it, even though (like the Star Wars prequels) the outcome is known ahead of time.

Blinded by the Light

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The Great TV Drought of 2019-2020 is bringing in lots of Netflix DVDs. This one is a perfectly average, but utterly predictable, little movie from last year.

Javid is a Pakistani-descended teenage Brit living in Luton, England in the mid-to-late-1980s. Maggie Thatcher is the Prime Minister. Apparently Luton is an economically depressed hotbed of bigotry, because there's a lot of anti-"Paki" sentiment, and the fascist National Front, a nasty bunch of bigots, is depicted as having a strong presence.

Also, Javid's dad is kind of traditional (despite having emigrated his family out of Pakistan years ago). He looks forward to arranging Javid's marriage someday, and setting him on a nice safe career of office professionalism.

Between bigotry and family oppression, Javid's kind of put upon. But he finds meaning when a Sikh friend gives him a couple of Springsteen cassettes. He gets inspirational life advice (and also fashion tips) from the Boss. (His peers are mostly into newer artists.)

Dude, I was a Springsteen fanboy back then too. But I never thought that "Blinded By The Light" was anything more than Bruce's effort to string together a lot of nonsensical rhyming. ("With a very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground." Fun, but … please.)

Anyway: does Javid manage to navigate his Bruce-inspired way to a better life? Well, of course he does.

Agent Carter, Hayley Atwell, plays an encouraging English teacher. There are a lot of cheap shots at Thatcher, and even a few at Ronald Reagan. Tedious.


Last Modified 2020-01-29 7:00 AM EST