The Lion King (2019)

When I told one of my friends I was waiting for “The Lion King” to start; she said “really?” In a voice so laden with doubt that she might as well have added, “You’re fucking kidding”. She was honestly shocked, as well she might have been .

I have never seen the original film, even on video, and I didn’t see the live show, even though the giraffes’ heads come right out over the audience. I never saw the sequel to the original film, the sequels to the sequels, or any of the spin-off television shows. Likewise I had never purchased, (or used) “Lion King” themed toilet tissue, and had in short done my level best to avoid the entire franchise right from the start.

Why? I’ve always seen “Hamlet” set in a pride of lions as a rather tacky idea, but from what I saw of the publicity of the first film, I thought the animation looked really naff and things kinda snowballed from there. I fought off the advice of friends that frequently crossed the line into brow-beating and remained “Lion King” free for the last twenty-five years.

I liked the look of the trailers; simple as that. Off I went. Somehow I was 3 rows from the front row on the first session on opening day; either perfectly qualified to be a consumer of the film, since as a complete virgin to the franchise, I would not be distracted by niggley, trivial differences to earlier versions. And the short review is simple; I absolutely loved this film! From the ghastly cartoon drawings to this – I am sure I have never seen more perfect artificial lions. From the first I simply marvelled at the fact that these animals were not living, breathing, pooping animals at all, but creations of CGI and more than being “simply” animals they were called on to act as well; and did so too, not as humans wearing lion faces either but as lions, somehow using cat mannerisms to express completely understandable and moving emotions – and notoveracting either. In recent years a plague of coarse acting has overtaken the American film industry and scenery chewing has become the order of the day. No. The lions deliver mannered precise and economical performances , that frequently had me wondering how the top priced human talent on display elsewhere got away with their frequently, Academy Award winning performances.

Seriously. I’ve no idea what you call the skill but there must be an academy award for people who coax action performances from computer simulacra, and, in my opinion the person or people responsible here deserve one – and an extra Cola at the party after warwards.

“The Lion King” made me cry once, right at the end, so I was caught, tears running down my face, just as the lights came up. Filthy trick. But I liked the rest of the film so very, very much, I was more than prepared to forgive.

Verdict: The magic of cinema does not get more magical.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Parasite

Parasite.

World cinema is an interesting pursuit, after awhile you start to understand the world in almost unfashionable ways. Indian films are very Indian and Definitely an acquired taste, French films have a particularly piquant taste all their own. The French sense of humour is frequently very twisted and, when you get the wavelength, sometimes exceptionally funny. German films are never funny. Their comedies are worse. The Japanese have made some of the best films ever, and also some of the craziest shit in history. In fact the Japanese probably provide the widest spectrum of cinematic quality of any nation on earth. From Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” and Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”; all the way through to “Godzilla versus Frankenstein” there is something for everyone.

Right next door to Japan, almost within a stone’s throw(her her) is Korea. With a very much smaller Film industry, they have an utterly different outlook on life, and maintain a remarkably high quality standard in their recent output.Mostly.From “The Host” (which is probably the best “giant mutant creature film ever made )through to fascinating independent films like “lies” and the OTT bloodstorm war movie “Brothers in War” their industry stands on the horrendous trauma of the Korean War, which simply cannot be ignored as a major formative influence on the culture, and by extension, their film industry. In this film “parasite” it does not take much effort to see the formative influence of the trauma of war, on their culture and this subtext adds another layer of meaning to an already very interesting film.
Synopsis: A family of subterraneans live off the grid in a semi basement area in a stinking alley. Their windows provide close-up views of drunks pissing and puking in the street The group like like alley rats, eating what they find, stealing what they need; if they have “hope” it is a very short term proposition; since the concept of “having a future depends entirely on the prospect that you will be able to eat both today, and tomorrow.
Against all expectation however the grown son of the group, has managed to get an education, and has, indeed, graduated school with prospects. This is an amusing point at which one can diverge from the actual film itself and wonder athwart the plot line might have been if “parasite” had been made in different countries. The U.S is dead easy. If it had been made their the family would have been black since it is a commonly accepted trope that the only people horribly grindingly poor in the U.S are black. The clean -cut son, probably played by Denzel Washington, would, graduating school attempt to secure gainful employment. Here, apparently for the first time in his life, he would encounter the affront of white racism as an obstacle to his path. He would meet this challenge nobly, perhaps unburdening himself of some rhetoric at some applicable point, and roughly at the same time conflict would enter the plot! Black hoodlums would attempt to bully him into selling drugs for them! Or get shot! This plot section would form the major impetus for the films climax (usually involving tragically gasped last words from a bullet-riddled body cradled in the street by an alternately crying and screaming mother.
You can rest assured “Parasite was not made in the U.S; it was made in South Korea, and the Korean worldview is entirely different to that of the Western world. In fact, to someone brought up on a diet of American Media, the Koreans are downright weird. So “Parasite” trundled along towards its uniquely Korean and very satisfying ending I was left simultaneously aghast, and post cathartically almost shocked at the way I had found the ending uproariously funny. This is a bloody good albeit niche film that has the makings of a cult sleeper hit all over it, if such things exist anymore,
Copyright(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Claire Darling

The premise of Claire Darling is simple. A late -middle aged bourgeois lady (Claire; played by the great Catherine Deneuve) is living in a delightful family home in the French countryside. One day, and for no stated reason she decides to have a “Yard Sale”. It soon becomes apparent that she is selling everything including priceless family heirlooms and objects saturated with family memory, for pennies. Her family have various reasons for being aghast, depending on who they are. In fact, as family litmus tests go, this yard sale certainly fits the bill. Claire is interrogated, screeched at, berated and begged, but she sails above the consternation she has caused, if not oblivious, then at worst, slightly pained. Catherine Deneuve brings an odd calm to the character of Claire, sailing above the storm clouds she has caused like a bright, untouchable full-moon. She is still the quintessential French film star and in this film proves it yet again.

The suspense in “Claire Darling” (and there is a fair whack of it) is caused by the desire to know what the old bat is up to. When pressed she says that today is her “last day” but refuses say what she means. The audience is dragged inexorably towards a conclusion that the unlucky few will have guessed before the film’s (unexpected by me) wholly satisfying climax.

A very good solid script, very adequate acting, good technical work, and Catherine Deneuve add up to a very worthwhile entertainment. Recommended.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Seaside Rendezvous

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019

“Don’t we have a policy of not taking money from fucking perverts?” Tim was not faking being quite angry and it showed in his voice. He was talking across the boardroom table to Attard, who, as usual was fiddling with one of his gourmet Columbian blended cigars and seemed happy and calm at the prospect of smoking it. Tim, who had cut down on his intake quite recently, found the sight rather irritating.

Young cut in; she was Board Secretary and made sure no-one ever forgot it. “No Tim, there was discussion after the Nazi Holocaust investigation the year before last, but the board deadlocked and in the absence of a clear directive from the shareholders, the matter was effectively shelved.” Atttard swooped in for the kill; “The ratings figures on the feeds are clear Tim, our end users are pretty pervy themselves. They aren’t watching the various main release feeds for historical education, but for pure titillation and the bio-monitors are confirming that as time passes, the end uses are getting Pervier. We are middle men we take projects from the feeds and deliver product. They take their subscriptions at their end – the more sex and violence the better, for everybody; and anyway, it all actually happened, we aren’t making any of it up.”

It was one of the central columns of Tr00 publicity – patently true and difficult to argue against.
“But in concentrating on the negative we’re polluting the present, violent attacks are at an all time high – the streets are a war zone.”
“The news media needs to make a profit too, Tim,” Attard pounced.
“Both my nieces have been mugged in the last month!” Tim felt weak, falling back on the truth. The projects always seem alright, like the Nazi Holocaust job – final, total proof that the Holocaust didtake place and the final eradication of the arguments of the so call “Holocaust deniers” – until it went on release and it turned out that the deniersliked being proved wrong and were watching parts of it over and over – and masturbating.
“The thing is Tim, it happened.”
“The thing is, Attard;” Tim didn’t use his first name, on purpose, “I think we’re making the world a worse place by concentrating on the negative aspects of life.”
“And when we try something that’s supposed to be positive, everybody turns off, remember that feature we did on Jesus? Practically nobody watched it except the ones who were waiting to watch Jesus to fuck Mary Magdelene so they could masturbate – good work there by the way.”
“Thanks.” After all the worthy philosophy, some lusty bonking had turned Tim on too, and he was sure his reactions had transmitted through his Locus work.

“But this, there’s no question about this. This isn’t an unexpected interlude between the Messiah and his girlfriend. This one is just straight-out perversion. On purpose.”
“Oh come on Tim, how could you possibly know that?”
“Owen, I’ve been there. In my university days I spent a year living in Italy, moving cities, in the months I lived in Naples I visited Pompeii at least once a week.”
Attard hadn’t known that about Tim but he had no difficulty believing it.
“The Project briefing says the place is called “The Villa Of the Mysteries” and its purpose has defied explanation by archeologists for hundreds of years”
“are you saying you know something generations of archeologists don’t?” Attard spoke with the air of a rat-trap slamming shut on an unwary mouse.
“Yes.”
“Well seeing that all theories are shortly to be proven or disproven, one way or the other by the Locus; I think now is the time to put up or shut up Tim – and to make it all even more interesting, what do you say we put a little wager on your theory, say 1,000 McPhees?” Attard was all buttery charm and easily earned at least double Tim’s annual pay but one thousand McPhees wasn’t extravagant to Tim either, who wasn’t a betting man.
“Sure thing Patrick.”
“Tim? You haven’t already checked your theory out?”
“No, Mr Attard, I haven’t.”
“No offence; it just occurred to me.”
“None taken, it’s a good idea it’s just this sort of situation doesn’t present itself often.”
The way that Attard was looking at him made Tim uncomfortable.
“So,” said Attard, “this large house or villa is set, perhaps terminates, the walk from the city gates. It is renowned for its fabulous frescos which, it is believed show the initiation, in sequential images of a maiden into the cult of Bacchus, the wine God. The God of parties and carousel. There are various rooms in the place that have identifiable purposes; The room with two ovens was obviously a state-if-the-art gourmet kitchen; there was a steamboat, a hot room and facilities for making wine,”
“Later.” ‘ Tim broke in.
Momentarily nudged off- stride Attard looked over.
“Later than the period of use I’m talking about – or earlier, it doesn’t matter.”
“That sounds a bit slapdash Tim-what do you mean?”
“Look, we’re talking about a large expensive house in the suburban/rural fringe of a holiday resort town, over the period from when it was built to when it was buried by the volcano; during the time it was standing, what with the way the world works, it was undoubtedly re-purposed a few times. My theory is that it started life as a clubhouse for the cult of Bacchus and then went through multiple incarnations before finishing up as the “Villa of the Mysteries” at the time of the eruption. It’s the final incarnation that I’m interested in.”
“ And what was it then?”
“That’s what nobody can work out.”
“Except you, of course.”
“As it happens. I do think so.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind putting your mouth where your money is, do you think you could bring yourself to fucking tell me?”
“The thing is, I grew up in a small seaside town; so I have an advantage the average archeologist doesn’t – I understand how the places work. People think they go to such places to get away from it all, but really they don’t. What they want is more of the same – but slower paced and with fresh air.”
“Go on.” 
“I grew up in a town called Laurieton, on the East coast of what used to be called Australia. Have you ever noticed how small towns all have a building that used to be a cinema? Back then remote towns were out of Tv transmission range and”
“Get on with it!”
“Um, the most important thing they had to do was, entertain the tourists. You see, you don’t go on holiday to do nothing – you go on holiday to have fun and people are creatures of habit with their fun, they develop tastes, then they want more of the same. They like cinema in the city, they want it on holiday too, but without the knife-fights in the popcorn queue – They want it the same, but preferably better.”
“Get to the point.”
“Right, the thing is, I went to Pompeii and I felt right at home. They had all the normal shit you do in the sun with the kids – boat rides fish’n’chips, swimming, fishing, a heated baths complex – and the ancient Roman equivalent of a Imax cinema.”
“A what?”
“A cinema with a very big, very high resolution screen – a late twentieth century attempt to produce the effects of an input helmet; on multiple people at the same time.”
“Will you get to the fucking point?”
“Fuck you; You asked – the dominant entertainment in Rome was not cinema;”
“Really?”
“It was the arena; or as the Romans called it, ‘the Circus’ – the setting of gladiatorial conflicts – the place where prisoners were fed alive to wild animals. Where sometimes prisoners were tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.”
“I’ll torture you to detain a fucking minute”
“The blood, gore, and pathos were incredibly popular with the crowd – a roman showed his or her true mettle by not showing empathy with the suffering at the circus – while obviously gaining pleasure at the spectacle and, of course, betting on the fights. The thing was the circus in Pompeii, had on advantage over the big arenas in Rome. Oh sure, they got the big purse gladiator fights, massive set pieces and the prisoner holocausts but they had one disadvantage – They’d gotten too big. You couldn’t really see if a gladiator match was fixed unless you were right up the front, and those seats were far too expensive, so only the rich got the full effect, a good view of the wounds, being able to hear the bones break, being able to smell the blood, everyone else was watching something like cavorting ants on a saucer.
Ok! Ok! The thing is, the arena at Pompeii was much smaller, everybody was closer to the action – It was a perfect example of smaller being better – if you like your murder in high detail.”
“You know, none of this is about The Villa of the Mysteries. None! It’s *All *off the point!”*

“It fucking isn’t! The thing is Pompeii was a typical holiday town, the same as you’d find anywhere, even, well, not now, not anymore. Town Its not different, its similar in its differences! The town where I grew up, had a very nice cinema, never crowded. After I’d left, they built an Imax theatre, people came from miles around.”

“The. Villa. Of. The. Fucking. Mysteries.”

“Big building. Expensive two stories surrounding a small central courtyard. Courtyard fenced by solid brick wall about two metres high. Now Romans were small in comparison to us, the size of children, roughly. I was a young man, not fat like I am now,” he patted his large girth. “And I could barely get over it, before security told me to fuck off.”
“The place was a priceless archeological site, not a jungle gym.”
“I was young. And it turned out not to be priceless after all, didn’t it? Just very expensive, I’m sure the new town they build there will be very pleasant.”
“It’s always unpleasant to be an idealist when politicians are involved.” The statement was rather more philosophical than was normal for Attard who had been known to advocate political assassination for elected officials shown to be guilty of lying or corruption but it did nothing to calm Tim who was firmly in favour of exactly the same penalty for officials who took bribes to sell archeological sites for modern development. He attempted to console himself with the certain knowledge that the Villa of the Mysteries and indeed Pompeii itself would always be present for the Locus, even if the site was covered by a twenty-storey concrete parking garage.
“So your theory Tim?”

“The main Pompeian amphitheatre was good entertainment at a good price for the common holidaymakers who can down from Rome on the big Triremes. The Villa of the Mysteries was top class entertainment for rich connoisseurs who wanted something special; probably something to order, and were prepared to pay for it.”
“Finally! Do you know what time it is Tim?”
“Always Patrick.”
As it happened they had less than fifty minutes before the fusion station came on line and delivered the power they need.

The villa actually looked slightly more bedraggled and decrepit in the Locus than it did in the images that had come with the contract file. The back of the structure was partially covered in scaffolding and men worked on the walls as men have for the last thousand years, neither too fast, or too slow but rather just fast enough to convince middle management that they were neither dead or incompetent.

“They’ll be repairing damage from the earthquake of 5 February 62 AD…” His eye caught the bug in the lower right corner.
“Still? Fuck! that was nearly ten years ago! Either this lot are on some sort of maintenance contract or the place was rubble after the earthquake.”
“Let’s see inside.” Attard had no real interest in the plight of the workers, after all, he was upper management.
Tim ghosted the Locus through the locked front gate and through the big wooden red-painted doors. Light glowed in iron braziers each side of the entrance and the glossy paint glimmered. The inside of the interior courtyard was exactly as Tim had described , except that the two metre barrier walls had been covered with a coat of whitewash and bright braziers lit the space from their positions in all four corners. The space between the top of the barrier wall and the awning above was filled with a heavy, taut rope net. Evening was over and the night was well settled in when things started to happen. The sky above the little courtyard was a deep blue and the stars stared down as cold and as hard as diamonds. They delivered the two men first, a big black unpleasant looking man and s small one with a face like a ferret and more white in his eyes than was comfortable. The sedan chairs arrived an hour later, shown into place by a flunkey who managed to walk backwards while bowing. The sedan chairs were placed on portable wooden trestles that had the riders lying at the same height as the top of the wall, with a perfect view of activities beyond it, well within arms’s reach.

Attard was surprised and gladdened when the big black man actually killed the small high speed ferret man. It was almost a fair fight. The Ferret man had a knife which he slashed his opponent with, often, spraying the white walls with livid splashes of bright red. Then he stabbed the black man directly in the penis and was almost instantly rewarded with a high kick to the chest that sent him flying into the wall hard enough to break multiple ribs. The black man then leapt into the air and landed both feet on his opponents body.
The fat bald man in the right hand chair clapped ironically. They delivered the girl ten minutes after the victor was removed from the premises. She couldn’t have been more than twelve and she cried piteously and begged for mercy. The fat man spat in her face so she sat in a corner and cried there. Tim set the Locus to wide-angle, handed control to Jensen and went to the tearoom for a cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. He had no desire to watch more. He had seen them deliver the lion already, it was downstairs, waiting, and besides- it had all already happened

Godzilla2: King of the Monsters

This film starts big. In point of fact this film starts awfully damned big. In fact if you thought you were going to have to wait for through turgid plot material for your your howling, crashing, trampling, exploding laser firing, more exploding, men with submachine guns firing at giant monsters as a sop to the US bloody massacre lobby, you’d be completely wrong; the shit starts splattering the walls at floor-shaking volume, from the first frame. It is quite disconcerting. One minute you’re sitting in a quiet cinema The next you are in a burning nightmare of rubblerubble that used to be a city. A woman and her daughter are screaming, barely audible in the armageddon that surrounds them. A man calls. He is worried about them. He is either near or far. Neither word really means anything in this jumbled nightmare jumble. You have no idea which city this was, or who these people are. How are you supposed to care for them? They are simply human, you care or you don’t, depending on the kind of person you are. It is a manipulative trick, but it works. All my rational mind could come up with was to wibble ”bags not having to clean up this mess.” That I was immediately ashamed of the thought made me realise that this was was called “a good, strong, opening.”

There was no respite. Even though rather less is actually happening, the melodrama and overacting ratchets up several notches, to the red mark on the main gear wheel. Characters too poorly defined to be seen as more than different haircuts, shouted barely comprehensible twaddle at each other before a shock cut to another haircut shouting more twaddle or to something whizzing by, or whizzing by and crashing and blowing up. Then the tension ratchets up another notch and another.

Goddam huge creatures vaguely recognisable from the Toho Godzilla films start doing goddam huge monster activities exactly wherever they bloody well feel like it. Their activities are increasingly exuberant and acrobatic, except in the case of Mothra, whose activities are acromothic. “Bat” stuff is largely the bailiwick of King Gidorah, who as we all learned at school, has bat wings, legs like a piano, three tails and three heads at the end of three long wriggly snake-like necks.

At one point a giant monster bursts out of an erupting volcano. The local villagers are dubious about this and even more dubious about the small print in their insurance contracts. By the time this happens the film has been going slightly over an hour and has achieved volume levels roughly equivalent to a squadron of F1-11s taking off on afterburners – then King Gidorah stood up, extended his wings, screamed and shot lightning into the sky from his wing joints. I was totally rapt. I punched the air in the cinema and yelled “YEAH!” I haven’t done anything like that in the movies for about the last forty-five years. I was rather surprised at myself. Right then and there in the destruction, I decided that I was definitely seeing “Godzilla II: King of the Monsters” again, soon, with friends and most likely stoned. Its that kind of film.

Copyright(c) Alex Rieneck, 2019All Rights Reserved

Peterloo

Peterloo

Power is never given, it is only taken. The marchers at Saint Peter’s Field, Manchester learnt this at their cost. They thought that their demands for universal suffrage were fair and justified and two hundred years of history have proven them to be right. They thought that a mass movement of non-violent protest would change society the way they wanted it; and that exact technique worked for Gandhi in India comparatively shortly after their seminal attempt failed. In short, like most left wing types, they thought that people were essentially good, and that when presented with undeniable logic, the powers-that-were, would simply accede to superior logic and loosen their grip on power and share it with the masses of their own volition. Sadly those who planned the march to St. Peter’s Field in Manchester, severely overestimated the ruling classes’ altruism and empathy with the working class. The outcome was tragic, as it frequently is.

The film starts slowly. Grotty looking peasant apes walk around outdoors in the British north country allowing the audience to try to come to terms with how awful the weather can be in those parts. Just when you’ve come to the conclusion that they must be intellectually sub-normal because they’re wandering around outdoors in such filthy weather to little obvious purpose, the director adroitly turns your conclusions on their head. The damp unhappy looking figures go inside and begin arguing very intelligently – about politics. As they argue (which one member of my party found profoundly boring) they sketch in the power structure in which they live, and their place it. One realises very quickly that they are completely justified in being dissatisfied and that they are proposing to create their model society very much like the one we have now. This, of course, engenders the hope that their idealism will succeed and that the emancipation we probably take for granted now will be achieved by peaceful means.

At the same time, the film’s name, faint recollection of a secondary school history class that never quite managed to become an outright nap, the marcher’s chant of “liberty or death” – all go to fuel a certain feeling of cynicism that the two sides differences can be peaceably resolved. Added to that, are the memory of any number of pro-democracy protests being violently “dispersed” on the TV news. At the same time while more ringing political tub-thumping filled the screen, I found myself wibbling “But Gandhi pulled it off just about a hundred years later” and the marchers kept marching and chanting, and the parasites of the ruling class kept discussing them, and the tension mounts.

I’ve made great efforts to write this review so that it is as spoiler free as possible, and I’m certainly not about to spoil the ending now. On St Peter’s Field Manchester the direction of Britain balanced on a knife edge; by extension the evolution of all the pink bits on the map, balanced too. “Peterloo” was the moment of praxis and I heartily recommend seeing the film so that you can set youself to considering the quite profound issues that it dredges up.

My companion found it deathly boring and irritating; I found it invigorating and thought-provoking. Most oddly it occurred to me that history seems to be repeating itself- even now in the twenty-first century we have our own version of George the third in the form of Donald Trump, slumped on the throne “like a sack of potatoes”, face a worrying shade of red from the effort of attempting to piss purple; issuing weird largely incomprehensible ejaculations of kingly power that accomplish little but worrying those who happen to listen, while at the same time, across the globe, the poor seem to be being trodden on by those who inherited their power, usually from unspeakably nasty parents. In fact, the wonderful thing about the film “Peterloo” is not that it makes the past seem similar to the present, but that it reminds the viewer that the events of St Peter’s Field in 1819m seem to be happening over and over again around the world at an increasingly frenetic pace, faster even than the news cycle, each nightmare played out at cartoon speed on the screens of a billion views who do their best to ignore the enormity of the panorama presented to them.
“Peterloo” is a exceptionally good and fascinating film; at the very least it is another masterwork from the master Mike Leigh.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

All is True

This film is an odd kind of treat, but far more than a morsel. It sees Ben Elton revisit the scenario of his remarkably good TV sitcom “The Upstart Crow.” That of the tiresome home life of Shakespeare the man as opposed to the literary icon.

But before you start heading for the hills, “All is True” is far more than the cash-in movie of a hit Tv series or like a triple-length episode of “On The Busses” on better film stock with a censorship rating that allows more in the way of tit. “All is true” allows the writer Ben Elton to produce a bobby-dazzler of a script that examines most, if not all, of the serious issues that the series simply side-swiped as one-liners. Not that the film is dour or Po-faced, far from it, it is frequently funny, sometimes laugh-out-loud-so; but it also manages to be far more serious and propel itself well into the mandatory viewing list of anyone studying Shakespeare at either school or Tertiary level.

The film is very ably directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the part of Shakespeare – and to my eye he does a particularly fine job of the part too, – not a sign of his usual word mouthing or scenery chewing to be seen. Indeed the wretched man seems to have redeemed himself and almost had me in tears at one point.

1/ if you’re studying Shakespeare this film is compulsory
2/ If you’re educated and have a brain this film should be very high on your “to see” list
3/ If you love the English language, run, don’t walk to the nearest showing Go!

4.9999/5

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019 All rights reserved