Films Watched

Her-2013

Her – This is a brilliant commentary on modern life, relationships and emotions. The use of technology to communicate without seeming effort and the pain it can cause. Phoenix is mesmeric. 5/5

The Counselor – It’s dark, ugly and while attempting to be Shakespearean, it misses too many steps. What is also tells me is how actors are just actors. I am sure a lot happens beyond the scenes but the fact that the actors sat there and said those lines tells you either about their credibility or that they don’t give a shit. This was an old guy in McCarthy getting people to physically perform his notions that normally would only be committed to page and the imagination. I bet he opened a bottle of whiskey after this and had a fat wank. However its well-crafted and watchable and beyond some of the script and the bullshit speech at the end by Diaz, its good imo. 3/5

Locke – One man show from Tom Hardy as his life falls apart as he drives. Hardy can really act. 4/5

Grudge Match – Sly and De Niro meet in a boxing comedy with some decent gags and by the numbers plot and acting. 2/5

Maleficent –  an odd film, sitting between two stools of child fantasy and adult viciousness, bizarrely edited. It was a bit shit. 2/5

Kick-Ass 2 – I liked the first KickAss but this one sucked. It was unfunny and overly-violent. 2/5

Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson roams around Glasgow and the Highlands finding local men and consuming them. It’s a real art house effort, odd and entrancing. Johansson’s English accent is pretty good. 3/5

Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise, aliens and action meets Groundhog Day and its smooth, fun and excellent. Cruise’s stellar status has gone. He’s too much a name to be a superhero and yet can’t be an action hero as before. He needs to re-start acting cos this path is fucked. 4/5

The Grand Budapest Hotel – As expected, it’s brilliant, quirky, funny, I’ll use a word I’ve never written before, exquisite. 5/5

Lucy – Typical Luc Besson. Style over ridiculous notions and some crackpot philosophy. You wonder how long he spent dreaming up the ideas and script (which is complete nonsense) and how long to film it. Its slick, short, silly and idiotic. 2/5

Divergence – a reasonably entertaining sack of shit. 2/5

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FILMS

I haven’t really watched many of late. Socially, life’s been distracting. And I haven’t had fast internet at my place and the cinema isn’t an option. But below is my 2 pence worth on what I have seen.

Gravity

This is Speed in the sky. It’s very well-made and spectacular but again this is Sandra Bullock driving a bus in space. Her range of dialogue could have been pulled out of the Jan De Bont classic/piece of crap. The story is contrived and the constant battle against the odds gets a bit ‘yeah whatever’ after a while but in 3D it is entertaining if mildly ridiculous.

The Great Gatsby

Looks great, lushous and impressive with vast sets and paranomics that only looked like they were produced in a computer. I never really liked the book but the film makes it more accessible and less folly-pretentious. The build up to the dramatic ending was dynamic. Leo plays the same role he has in many movies while Toby Macguire does his best drunk Peter Parker impression. Its entertaining and memorable for its production and pacing over anything else.

American Splendor

Fantastic film splicing documentary and actors around the life of Harvey Pekar, a well-known comic book writer. Paul Giamatti is excellent as the social awkward, possibly autistic Pekar while his wife plays the biggest nerd helper I’ve seen. The documentary-fiction method could confuse some but it’s very well-made and despite never truly making you leap, it does hold the attention. The use of Pekar himself to explain moments is brilliant.

The Place Beyond the Pines

This is some film. Grainy and slow featuring Ryan Gosling being Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper actually doing some acting. Its actually difficult to believe it is him. The film is essentially divided into two parts which fold into each other. It’s pretty depressing, straight-out and well-made. Be in the mood.

Thor

Talking of entertaining and very ridiculous, Thor is here to save the world again. Despite being undefeatable he seems to make hard work of all these battles. Of course it’s mostly down to his conieving brother and his hard-on for Natalie Portman but he pulls it out in the end. This film is less earnest than the last, throwing in plenty of silly jokes and banter between the main characters except for Anthony Hopkins who’s never smiled in his life. The references to The Avengers were frankly idiotic and so laboured you know they were simply following a contract stipulation. It’s the kind of film you will talk through so see it with a real friend.

Pacific Rim

I saw this on a flight. Somebody save me. The lot was so formulaic, the action was ridiculous and it even failed to be entertaining. Serious disappointment but then what do you expect!

Now You See Me

Well I did for a while but then I fell asleep. Hey, I was flying. It was too smarmy for its own good.

What a critic. I am sure you agree.

Films seen of late

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Brilliantly relentless Norwegian thriller concerning a man who will do what it takes to preserve his image. As it all unravels, some of the scenes, twists and turns are excellent.

Loopers

Bruce Willis has been in some decent pics of late. This one about time travel and hitmen is understandable despite its plot with some solid action.

The Russian Ark

Seminal, one-take Russian film from the 90s. A man wakes in a museum and meets many characters from history and yeah its done in one take!

Jack Streaker

Tom Cruise tries to play a likeable anti-establishment hero. ‘He doesn’t care for the law. He only cares for the truth’, blah blah blah. In a dialogue heavy film with an obvious plot, it still works. The violence is brutal. The one liners are decent but the ending, a clear setup for the assumed sequel is odd. Real odd.

The Cabin in the Woods

Knowing teen horror with lots of references, some funny lines from the stoner guy (the oldest student in the world) and a lot of nerdy, comic book monsters coming out to play etc. Pretty good fun.

Premium Rush

Joseph Gordon Levitt again!! He is likeable but come on man, take a break! Bike couriers in New york get mixed up with child smuggling and bent cops with debts to pay. Nicely made. The chass sequencies are pretty rubbish and the characters are one dimensional but decent enough to watch on a flight.

Juan of the Dead

Cuban zombie film which moves beyond the ‘catch your eye’ title to play out some good action, some of the lewdest jokes I have seen on film and great political satire. The joke about the bus is brilliant.

Total Recall (remake)

Has Colin Farrell ever made a successful/money-making film? In this unnecessary remake, him and other failure Kate Beckinsale fight it out for one reason or another in a computer generated world that no one gives a shit about.

Total Recall (original)

Arnie on form. The sets are plastic. The colours are gaudy and the one-liners are pretty naff. A classic film in short. I’ll see you at the party.

Bunch of Films Seen

Shame – overrated premise (man is constantly horny but really lonely) but well-made and great soundtrack. 4/5

The Iron Lady – Thatcher biopic. Its well-acted but kind of oddly written and focused. 3/5

Albert Nobbs – Glenn Close plays a woman who pretends to be a man in 19th century. 3/5

400 Blows – classic French film about society, education and kids. Its funny. 4/5

Haywire – if you know MMA, you know how ridiculous this is. Gina Carana can’t act much but doesn’t really have to here. Full-on action. 3/5

The International – Clive Owen as someone chasing something about arms but with a few class set-pieces. 3/5

Young Adult – Charlie Therzon returns home to find despite being someone, she isn’t happy. Awkward. 3/5

The Muppets – classic endearment. 4/5

Leatherheads – kind of entertaining Clooney 1920s football comedy. 3/5

The Avengers – good action and yet a conversation between Thor and Hulk is…whatever. 3/5

Prometheus – ummm well its tough when you know the end. Looks great, good pacing and decent action but no classic. 3/5

Iron Sky – Nazis on the dark side of moon return to Earth to infiltrate the US Government in a knowing B-movie with decent special effects and acting. 3/5

The Dictator – Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat in the Middle East with more plot and that makes it worse. However it has enough decent jibes to entertain. 3/5

The Chernobyl Diaries – garbage. 1/5

The Original Woody Allen

Woody Allen is generally known for his awkward romantic or psychological and whimsical comedies with various modern actors essentially playing Woody. However he started out as a surreal comedian, a man with ridiculous jokes. Let’s call him a fast talking, Jewish Peter Cook. The guy was genuinely funny before he went romantic-funny, whiny funny and cerebral funny, neither of which tickles the bone like surreal, ridiculous funny.

In honour of this, I’ve watched 3 of his original comedies, the ones which made his name before he ‘matured’. These comedies, Bananas, Everything You Want to Know About Sex and Sleeper are little short of hilarious, totally ridiculous send-ups of American foreign policy, sex and James Bond.

Bananas showed great foresight as the US organises the murder of a South American leader and replaces him with a lackey, something that occurred two years later in Chile. EYWKASex has at least three scenes of ridiculosity involving a jester, a good-looking Armenian sheep and a giant boob. Sleeper is a James Bond spoof and very apt.

Look Them Up!

Ryan Gosling

In many ways I can’t believe I’m writing this blog but I’ve been impressed by Ryan Gosling of late, mostly after watching Half Nelson and Drive. Both these independent films require him to act a little but mainly to pout and for that, it works.

I got introduced to the guy when Tam made me (trust me I wasnt looking forward to this) watch The Notebook, the quintessential chick flick with a story of eternal love made, presumed lost through mis-communication and then rediscovered. While the story is schmaltzy, predictable drivel, I have to admit its endearing it in a way. It touched a nerve.

After that ‘experience,’ a film made in 2004, I assumed his career took the predictable early death and expected to see him on TV anytime soon. But for unexplained reasons, Gosling has been all over the place of late. I mentioned Drive in a previous post, mostly for the music but his role in Half Nelson, an excellent small independent film from 2006 highlights a strength also noted in Drive; his dead-pan face!

Gosling is best when he doesn’t say very much, when he lets the mood, music and scene take over.  I’m not saying he’s a bad actor, I don’t think he is but in both films, playing the Man With No Name character suits him. His passive face actually adds to the ambiguity and tension. It helps that recently I’ve watched the Dollar Trilogy and Yojimbo, the original man (samurai) with no name.

When he actually starts active acting in The Ides of March, he somewhat fails or becomes only passable. You begin to notice he might just be a pretty boy and deserving of a place on the new OC or where ever. Ryan should stick to what he’s good at; passively killing people or looking unhappy for a variety of reasons. He does it so much better than Seagal. Or looking like he’s knackered or stoned and unable to function to the level of emotion. The ability to keep your head while all others lose theirs….now that’s a skill.

Senna (2010)

 

 

I saw this documentary on Senna’s Formula One career a few weeks ago. Its undoubtedly informative and moving and the use of archive footage is revealing. The sympathy shown to Senna by the film makers is striking and their love for F1 is obvious. For me maybe too clear. While I enjoyed it, unless you are an F1 nerd, there seems to be a gap in the story. Senna was a huge figure in F1 but meant so much more to Brazil at the time.

Brazil had only just emerged from dictatorship and despite being endlessly touted as the ‘next big economy’, it was still struggling with inflation, debt, a laborious economy and corruption. Even the traditional heroes, the Brazilian football team hadn’t won the World Cup for the last 24 years of Senna’s life. But despite being a rich, white boy, Brazilians embraced Senna for showing themselves to the world as winners. They can be very competitive and emotional people in general. Yet this embrace was only highlighted when Senna first won the Championship and at his funeral. A slight more detailed sociological angle could have really brought home what representing Brazil so clearly means to Brazilians and meant to Senna himself.