January 23, 2023

One Pale Blue Eye: Netflix just dropped this movie in the past week or so, starring Christian Bale, who I quite like from a number of his past roles. As an aside about Bale, he seems to be getting the Marbles-in-the-Mouth affliction that has also infected Jeff Bridges long ago. Seems that their tongues are too big for their mouths. Bale has had this growing for a number of years. It can be distracting. But I digress. This movie also has an almost unrecognizable Robert Duvall and the quality of Gillian Anderson.

Set in early 1800s in the American colonies it focuses on a military academy for boys. The Academy’s second-in-command Colonel has ridden out to meet up with the Bale character, a widowed detective living alone after his daughter has left recently. He is enlisted to investigate a cadet who was found hanged on the nearby grounds. This invitation wasn’t an option, but a command. Upon arrival Bale learns that the hanged cadet also had his heart removed in a surgical manner. The plot thickens. It seems to be more of a ritualistic killing. Bale and the Colonel conduct examinations for the young deceased cadet. Enlisted to help is a young, penguin-like looking cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (picture above). Together he and Bale start putting together the clues and arrive at a motive. Then another killing takes place. Things continue at a slow pace, and ultimately there is a conclusion for which I was neither surprised nor interested.

The trouble with this is that there is a terrible waste of talent. It is a very good cast. But the story that they have to work with is weak, and has been done before. Why, for example, does the experienced detective always saddled with a vice (here drink) that is mentioned but is later ignored throughout. Why is Edgar Allan Poe involved in this at all? Why him, instead of any other random cadet? Do we get any insight into this awkward young man, who is an outcast but still a talent with words, notably poetry. In some way it takes away some of the slow building tension that the real Poe lived to be 40 years old. Finally do they manage to get the worst performance of Gillian Anderson’s professional life? I really like Anderson, and have felt that she was the real talent in X-Files. She has gone on to to do some really great work. Notably last season of the Crown she played Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher brilliant, finding sympathy for a complex woman with a hard exterior. Here, oh what a mess with her tyrade at the dinner table which adds little to her character. Add this movie to yet another made during COVID that doesn’t intrigue nor really entertain.

Nope: Jordan Peele’s Nope is a difficult film to pin down. I came into it from just seeing the movie poster and marketing that this was an alien invasion movie. From the perspective it shares some similarities with 2002’s Signs, with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix (“swing away Merrill”), it definitely is! But it’s also quite different. On a secluded California horse farm is OJ and and his sister Emerald, who recently lost their father in a bizarre accident while he was tending to a horse. The family rents the horses to Hollywood productions. A series of strange events occur which are also reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with power going in and out, including battery operated cellphones. Lights flash, things get dark and quiet and there is a presence felt. In the distance at times they think they see a ship of some sort. Looking to investigate further, they go to the local Fry’s Electronic Store (Canadians think Best Buy) to set up some cameras to try and film these strange events. They see this as a key to fame and fortune to finally accurately document the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials. The young cashier is interested in their story and gets more involved than you might expect.

Together these three try to explore this strange phenomenon. There are some predictable attempts to try and shock while creating tension. It isn’t a scary movie. Nor is it a gross out, which many of these movies can be these days. It has some genuinely funny momentsin which principally OJ voices what everyone in the audience is thinking. At the same time he also acts in ways that I can’t imagine that anyone would where in a barn he takes out his phone for picture rather than run like crazy. Sister played by Keke Palmer is so very annoying in virtually every scene. Maybe that was the point, but her constant distraction takes away from the overall enjoyment. I will say that I think that there are some stunning visuals involved. One which takes place in the neighbouring amusement park provides a fascinating perspective. It informs and shocks at the same time. There are some practical realities which I won’t delve into further because it would be more of a spoiler than is merited. But it’s something that when I pondered it after viewing, it didn’t make a whole helluva sense in dealing with the vastness and vacuum of space. Of all the Jordan Peele movies, I have to admit to liking Black Klansman the most. His Get Out, also starring Daniel Kaluuya, I just didn’t quite understand all the hype that was sent its way. Kaluuya is a presence and has done some very good roles. It had some moments, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and the sci fi aspects were average overall.

George and Tammy: This series on Showtime stars the compelling Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon as the country music icons. It is six episodes long and details the turbulent relationship between the main characters, two people who fate brought together but they just couldn’t overcome the challenges that their careers and their vices brought to them. Jones was a living tornado who reeked trouble everywhere he went. His battles with drugs and alcohol were legendary along with his violent temper. He was an angry drunk. He lashed out, and the narcissist that he was, thought that everything revolved around him. It seemed that the press and those around him, even when he tried to get sober, wanted to see that drunk George and see just what he would do. How much more outrageous he could be! Sad that there weren’t some friends or handlers who could try and steer him away from those temptations. He suffered as a result.

I tried to like this. At every turn it seemed the main characters were making poor choices. George especially was just such an unlikeable man, who despite his obvious love for Tammy Wynette, he just couldn’t imagine doing something for her, or treating her as she deserved. He would profess his love, but then the demons of addiction would settle in and possess him.

This is yet another tale of how fame and fortune cannot make up for the hurt and loss from a person’s life. It can mask it, and one from the outside can think the person “has everything” but in truth they are missing peace and peace of mind. It seems here, like with many of these performers, that the stage was their refuge with everyday life being the daunting challenge. I think that both Chastain and Shannon sang their own songs here, but they aren’t George Jones nor Tammy Wynette. However much they tried. So I cannot recommend this, but certainly if you are fan of country music and wanted to see a little bit about these two interacted, I did learn a few things. Watching this and then something like the Shania Twain documentary, you see how the modern country scene is very different than it was then.