Movie Diary 7/25/2017

Adventure in Manhattan (Edward Ludwig, 1936). This goddamn bizarre movie is about a cocky crime reporter (Joel McCrea) who makes a bunch of predictions about upcoming criminal acts. How? I do not know. Jean Arthur butts heads with him, Reginald Owen is an elegant producer, Thomas Mitchell a blustery newspaper editor. There’s one gag about a dead child in a small coffin. The wisecracking lead role isn’t quite a good fit for the great McCrea, and everybody plays it like they’re trying to sell us on how screwball it all is. Jean Arthur can do no wrong, obviously. There’s also a scene where three people sit around and eat baked beans.

More Than a Secretary (Alfred E. Green, 1936). Another weirdie. Jean Arthur runs a secretarial school but takes a job temping for George Brent, who runs a physical-fitness magazine, because it’s one way to get a shot at marriage. Lionel Stander is Brent’s assistant, Dorothea Kent is a competing secretary with limited office skills but plenty of moxie, Ruth Donnelly is Arthur’s colleague. Green keeps it moving along, which makes it a good deal pleasanter than Adventure in Manhattan.

Dunkirk Valerian (This Week’s Movies)

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James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh: Dunkirk (courtesy Warner Bros.)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

Dunkirk. “When the storylines do finally coincide, it’s a thrill — although it’s possible you’re more impressed with the filmmaker’s bravado than with anything the characters are doing on screen.” (Herald link here.)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. “The biggest problem, beyond the nonsensical storyline, is Besson’s ear for English dialogue. The movie collapses in a heap whenever DeHaan and Delevingne engage in their allegedly flirtatious banter.”

Movie Diary 7/18/2017

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017). Nolan and World War II: a director still playing tricks with time-bending storytelling. The bottom line: cross-cutting still works. (full review 7/19/2017)

The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2017). Confident brazenness from the director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, including the willingness to shock the more delicate arthouse fans of her first film. A desert setting, a dismembered heroine, and Leone-like slooowwwness make for a genuinely unusual film.

Upon Apes and Hermia (This Week’s Movies)

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War for the Planet of the Apes (courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

War for the Planet of the Apes. “This is a combat-mission film and a jailbreak movie, and if you can take the sight of digitally rendered chimpanzees and orangutans enacting Braveheart-style heroics, it succeeds on both counts.”

Wish Upon. “The usual idiotic decision-making is on display.”

Hermia & Helena. “Things are never quite what they seem in this film’s mischievous scheme, and although this idea feels breezy as it’s playing out, there’s something essential and very human about that observation.”

Framing Pictures convenes this evening at Scarecrow Video, at 7 pm. Please join us for more essential movie talk. From the FP Facebook page: “Framing Pictures experiences a new burst of freedom July 14. What is that all about? Perhaps getting to be deliriously happy at the prospect of talking about the Master, Alfred Hitchcock, whose first certifiably Hitchcockian film The Lodger has just received the deluxe Criterion treatment, and whose incomparable legacy is being celebrated at length on Turner Classic Movies this month. We’ll also sample the current film scene–perhaps Sofia Coppola’s Cannes prizewinning redo of The Beguiled, or Baby Driver, and by all means the sophomore effort from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, The Bad Batch. Showtime is 7 p.m. Friday, Bastille Day, in the Scarecrow Video Screening Room, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E. Cost of admission: nary a sou.”

Movie Diary 7/13/2017

Mr. Lucky (H.C. Potter, 1943). Cary Grant, gambling, an elaborate scam involving a WWII relief fund, Laraine Day as a wealthy New Yorker, lots of good character actors. Grant has one unusual speech about the haves and the have-nots (his character is the latter). There are many funny moments (a sustained lesson on Cockney rhyming slang comes around to fulfill a significant plot point), and also a couple of surprisingly violent ones. This is a bizarre movie. (Screened in 35 mm. at Seattle Art Museum’s summer Cary Grant series.)

Movie Diary 7/12/2017

Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro, 2016). Another of Piñeiro’s whimsical excursions into just-slightly-surreal screwball comedy; this one tracks a Buenos Aires translator (Piñeiro regular Agustina Muñoz) during a year in New York City. At the end the various wisps turn out to be held together quite sturdily. (full review 7/14)

Movie Diary 7/10/2017

What We Do in the Shadows (Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, 2014). Missed this vampire comedy mockumentary the first time around, which was dumb, because it’s a terrific movie. Everybody in it is funny – the co-directors themselves, and Jonathan Brugh, a New Zealand comedian previously unknown to me. All the horror stuff is spot-on too.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson, 2017). My traditional soft spot for Besson is being sorely tested by this marble-mouthed sci-fi epic. Still, there’s an appealing touch of Flash Gordon (1980 version) about it. (full review 7/21)

Wish Upon (John R. Leonetti, 2017). Ancient Chinese secrets contained in a mysterious music box, which should not be wished upon no matter what. A grim experience. (full review 7/14)