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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Wake in Fright


For a "lost" movie of Australia, this is surprisingly easy to watch:

Complete Wake in Fright on Youtube

Well, when I say "easy" I don't include how it might effect you.

The film was made in New South Wales, in the area The Road Warrior was filmed, directed by Ted Totcheff before he became known for Rambo. Some years after it's release it came to be considered a classic of Australian film, but the negative went missing. A bit over a decade ago a complete restoration was made from a good print and/or negatives found in a box labeled "For Destruction" — I've read different versions of the story there — for re-release and DVD. That restored version is what seems to be up on Youtube. There's a made-for-TV two episode "mini-series" remake that I have read about but not watched. The TV one is available on Amazon Prime presently.

My biggest gripe with this film is how an intelligent guy makes such a foolish bet about thirty minutes in, setting everything up for his predicament. The remake, I know, changes the reason he gets stuck without money in "The Yabba". A good and valid choice for the re-do, but otherwise I can't comment on the differences.

Wake in Fright opens with school teacher John Grant dismissing his one room schoolhouse in a desolate patch of the Outback for the Christmas break. John boards a train for the nearest city where he is to spend one night before flying to Sydney. The first half hour shows us how much John doesn't fit in with the locals in two-building Tiboonda or the city in Bundanyabba. We find out he's only teaching in that remote town because a financial obligation gives him no choice in posting.

Then John loses all of his money and the plot begins.

He dejectedly begins to try to find a way to earn some to be able to pay for a hotel, or better, his trip to Sydney. Instead he finds locals who are all too willing be friendly in sharing beer, food, beer, housing, beer, and a night hunting trip (with more beer). The hunt is neither simulated nor pretty.

The sun, the heat, the beer, the desolation, and the people begin to take a toll on John's well-being. It may well be the death of him.

Three XXX beer out of XXXX beer.

A word of warning: do not try to keep up drink for drink.

Starcrash


I was looking for Caroline Munro works and found this 1978 film. This is a Roger Corman production, and in many ways typical of his stuff: cheap. Considered by some a cult film, it was a quick to market rip-off of Star Wars.

There is an evil overlord with a novelty spaceship. There are a pair of smugglers being pursued by space police. There's risky hyperspace jumps to avoid those space police. There are robots. There's a weapon the size of a planet that needs to be dealt with. There's Akton (played by Marjoe Gortner) a force magic user (it's not really explained, not even to Star Wars: A New Hope level of explanation.)

And there's Stella Star (played by Caroline Munro in costumes not entirely unlike Barbarella). Unlike a lot of Corman's stuff of the era, this is strictly PG, so while Stella is never, eg, topless, she's clearly meant to be the big draw for a teenage male audience. They do spice it up with a planet of "Amazons" who also dress like the weather is rather warm.

The story is amusingly bad, and the special effects are amusing. There are some robots (not all of them) that remind me of Harryhusen's Sinbad films. (Munro became famous as a slave girl in one of those films.)

But Akton. Ugh. He just ruins the film for me. Gortner's rise to fame came from being ordained at age four and preaching on the "revival" circuit for years in his youth, then turning to acting to earn an honest living. It's an interesting story for the actor, but none of that matters for the film. Throughout this he can never seem to not look smug, and it grates. I've seen him in Bobby Jo and the Outlaw and didn't find him as unwatchable there, so I don't think it was Gortner's fault. (To be clear, the reason to watch that film is not him, the outlaw, but Lynda Carter's Bobby Jo.)

One escape pod out of four.

Starcrash at imdb
Star Wars: A New Hope at imdb

Bobby Jo and the Outlaw at imdb

Promising Young Woman


The trailer for this promises (delibate word choice) some wronged woman Death Wish revenge. The movie delivers something slightly different. There's a lot more psychological damage than physical.

The cruelty Cassie wants to inflict stems from being lost and seeking revenge for a life-long friend wronged in college. At first it is mostly small aimless stuff, random guys from random clubs, but then there's a reconnection to people from her college and a much more serious and deliberate plan.

I felt like it started off a bit heavy-handed, but quickly became more subtle. The filming is prettier than the story needs, and there's a lot of cliched sexiness, all very deliberate to help reinforce how much Cassie has reinvented herself for her revenge plot. She's watching videos on applying the perfect "blow job lips" makeup (the director makes a cameo as the instructor) with the intention to know how to lure in the guys, but not with any intention to satisfy guys.

The finish is relatively strong and satisfying, if also a bit too much of a movie ending.

Four tally marks out of five (|||| of ||||).

Promising Young Woman at imdb

Minari


First a note on watching this. A24 has a "screening room" to buy streaming access to this. They mention you can watch it via Roku, but what they really mean is you can (with certain Roku models) stream it from a computer to the Roku. You'll still need the computer to stream it. Rather than stream it twice wirelessly (once to computer, once from computer to Roku), we used an HDMI connection to my wife's Mac.

The other thing about the streaming access that stands out as "needed more explaination" is the times. When you buy access to this it comes at a particular date and time. Turns out that particular time is the start of a multihour (five? six?) window to watch it.

And a minor note. The video stream has customer identifying watermark that jumps around. It sticks to the very edge of the screen but moves up / down and switches sides. This was distracting at first but eventually ignorable.

On to the film.

This is an autobiographical story of the director's childhood, focusing on the first year of living in rural Arkansas with his Korean immigrant parents, and later his maternal grandmother, moved in to both care for her and provide some child care.

It is very striking that it avoids pretty much all of the cliches of a foriegner story. There's essentially no racism, no white savior, no special Asian wisdom to save the day. It's a story of people with conflicting desires, health problems, and farm troubles. The meanest line in the film is from a local teen directed at a local old man, overheard by the immigrant kids. There is a bit of a running joke about misundertanding that Mountain Dew is not some sort of natural mountain stream water.

Much is made of the boy's "cuteness" in accompanying commentary. The boy is the young director, and given a lot of significance in the story, but to me it was the grandmother who was the most interesting character. Her fascination with professional wrestling on TV, for example, was quite funny.

It's a slice of life film, and as typical for those, a little slow. But I didn't regret a moment of it. Call it a tad better than three amateur exorcisms out of four.

I watched the interview with the cast special feature afterwards. I felt that was largely a waste of my time. The title refers to one of the plants grown (this is clear in the movie), but Lee Isaac Chung (director) notes this was the rare plant that ultimately did well at the farm.

Minari at imdb