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- 07/09/15--07:00: _Daredevil TV Show: ...
- 07/09/15--08:08: _Caught Some Films F...
- 07/12/15--16:13: _Starting A Tumblr....
- 07/14/15--06:59: _Pixar's New Mind-Be...
- 07/15/15--12:58: _Birdman Is A Bleedi...
- 07/16/15--08:48: _Thai Film Facing Ce...
- 07/17/15--08:46: _Classic Award-Winni...
- 07/19/15--11:17: _Bully Apologism
- 07/20/15--16:42: _Gena Rowlands' Perf...
- 07/23/15--09:58: _Julie Christie Is S...
- 07/28/15--06:59: _The Latest Marvel S...
- 08/03/15--06:44: _Surprised There Was...
- 08/07/15--08:06: _Citzen Kane Is Incr...
- 08/10/15--12:47: _"The Big Sleep" Has...
- 08/13/15--23:48: _Dude Bros Party Mas...
- 08/15/15--15:11: _"Find Me Guilty" Ha...
- 08/18/15--16:07: _"Predator Dark Ages...
- 08/19/15--10:31: _My Top 10 Favourite...
- 08/20/15--06:58: _"The Apostle" Has A...
- 08/22/15--16:46: _American Gangster S...
- 07/09/15--07:00: Daredevil TV Show: Great Series, But The Finale Has Some Problems...
- 07/12/15--16:13: Starting A Tumblr....
- 07/14/15--06:59: Pixar's New Mind-Bending Movie Is Pretty Awesome!
- 07/19/15--11:17: Bully Apologism
- 08/19/15--10:31: My Top 10 Favourite Movies of 2013 (Plus an honourable mention)
Don't worry. I'm going to keep this spoiler-free.
The concern here is the costume. What I loved about Daredevil was that it had a gritty and reasonably realistic feel to it. Sure there were outlandish elements. There are all sorts of hints at a more magical universe about to rear its head and the main villain, the Kingpin, seems remarkably successful in fights considering that he's just a big lumbering guy in a suit.
The only real (very mild) spoiler here is, regarding the costume, the finale involves a costume change. It's not a big surprise, but it's done with a bit of a flourish, so I'm sorry if anyone feels this is news they'd rather not have heard.
The costume up until then has been this black outfit with the eyes covered. It's simply but effective - and it's realistic for a guy who (in case you aren't sure who Daredevil is) goes around at night beating up bad guys, dispatching vigilante justice.
Why are the eyes covered? Well he's a blind man who has super-awesome ninja skills. (Like Zatoichi, the blind swordsman. It's that sort of idea.) Since he was blinded by toxic waste they are allowing for phenomenally heightened senses. (As a friend of mine put it, his special power is that he's a blind man who can see!)
Now let's take a look at the new costume....
Now you can't really judge these things until you've seen the costume in action in the series. Having now seen this in action, I think it actually looks worse in the series than it does in this still image.
My criticisms are perhaps going to seem a little weird since, obviously, this is a tv series about a Marvel superhero. But they've clearly been trying to ease audiences into a gritty version of the superhero world, so if something seems out of place by comparison to the rest of the series in a way that is jarring and offputting, that's a problem.
My first issue should be more universal I'd have thought. Why does the new costume have eye holes? I mean we can actually see her eyes, not just that there are gaps where the eyes can look through.
Affleck's Daredevil didn't have eye-holes in the costume...
But actually my bigger problem is that it's an obvious red colour. Yeah sure, that's his costume colour in the comics, but I'm supposed to believe he can hide in the shadows. This is Captain America's 'stealth' mission with a big bright colourful shield on his back, all over again.
And one more point, when Daredevil is standing on the rooftop looking down on the city in his bright red outfit, I couldn't help but think of "The Tick".
"I am the sterling silver ladle of justice, pouring its foamy cream over the just-picked strawberries of crime."
The biggest problem with the finale for me is, having loved the series a lot including that final episode, I find myself asking: Is this is going to become silly like a comicbook in the next series?
Has anyone else really enjoyed the "Daredevil" series? Did you have problems with the finale too? Are you excited for new superheroes showing up in the next series? (I'm hearing that
Elektra and Punisher
will both be making an appearance.)
The Imitation Game (2014)
I stayed away from this film longer than I might have because I heard that it depicted Alan Turing as a soviet spy. This is absolutely not the case. We've no reason to think Turing was a soviet spy and the film gives us no reason to believe such a thing.
While "The Imitation Game" does little to explore the highly complex mathematical.concepts pioneered by Turing, it is a very solid drama about a genius trying to pursue a very complex solution to a problem which was leaving others thoroughly baffled.
I've heard it noted that Turing was never diagnosed with asperges. This is true, but there are plenty of hints at such a condition and certainly enough to justify it in a fictional account of Turing's life. Special credit needs to be given to Alex Lawther who gives a brilliant portrayal of Alan Turing as a child having a much harder time fitting in.
I've also heard it noted that Turing was generally perceived as charming. But Turing is often charming here too. This is about a good man who has problems with social skills, but is learning to decode human interaction just like he decodes complex encryptions.
I highly recommend this film because it is a simple story told well. However, I would have appreciated a deeper look at Turner's struggles to decode Enigma, his ideas pneumonia computers or even simply his personal life. His gay relationships are entirely absent from the film and that seems strange considering the heartbreaking events towards the film's conclusion.
A film about someone with an abusive mentor who makes excuses for his condescension and psychological manipulations on the grounds that he is trying to inspire greatness. The film leads up to a finale where the protagonist reveals their potential in a big public performance.
But enough about "Black Swan".....
Whiplash is a much lighter film than Black Swan. JK Simmons milks as much intensity out of the script as he can, but in the end he's just playing a petty bully. His character is a villain, plain and simple. But at least in Black Swan we could tell Vincent Cassell was genuinely abusive.
Many seem to think that Simmons is an effective teacher, but he isn't a teacher at all. He is a conductor. He doesn't teach the musicians. He just horribly mocks them whenever they do anything less than perfectly. That isn't inspiring greatness, it's degrading people for their weaknesses.
Certainly the trailers made it look like most of the movie would be JK Simmons mocking people cruelly, but positive reviews made me think there would be more to the film than that. Do realise that I am someone who preferred the second half of "Full Metal Jacket" when something starts to actually happen, rather than the first half which is seemingly endless scenes a man shouting obscenities at people. I just feel it is horribly immature to find that sort of behaviour entertaining.
Whiplash has wonderful performances, but both Simmons character and the protagonist are both rude and horrible people and I didn't care what happened to either of them. The story was simple and, for me, dull.
I'd definitely recommend watching "Black Swan" instead.
Having watched this the day after seeing "The Double" and expecting a comedy in the same vein as "The Guard", I think I approached this in the wrong mood. It probably also didn't help that a member of the audience seemed to laugh at odd points either.
Calvary was simply nothing like what I was expecting. It starts out pretty comedic and talk about suicide wasn't really a clue that this would be any darker.in tone than "The Guard". The first point where I wondered what was up, was when Dylan Moran's character starts pissing on a painting. I actually took this as a bad joke initially rather than one of many indicators of the tragedy still to come.
The second half gets even darker than the first and as a hilarious comedy the film felt distinctly less successful.
But watching the film this time and knowing the tone to expect, I was much more able to embrace the spirit of the film and its subtle nuances.
I still don't think it all works perfectly. The array of quirky characters seem a little convenient for the script and the scenario seems overly unreal considering the gravity we are expected to give to the drama. And why does the male prostitute have an American accent? (And how many clients can he possibly have considering that we don't even really see more than 15 people in the entire runtime of the film?)
Calvary is an incredibly interesting film. I didn't.find it wholly satisfying, but it is undoubtedly a powerful statement about the role of the clergy in Ireland today.
Okay, so it hasn't escaped my notice that livejournal's becoming a pretty lonely place these days. While I've got plenty of people I still like to follow here, the communities are all pretty dead.
As people are no doubt already aware, I have a Letterboxd account:
But I have just decided to start up a Tumblr too. If you already have a tumblr please add me on there.
Inside Out (2015)
The recent criticism of Pixar has been that, having resorted to sequels to movies other than Toy Story, they are lacking the originality and the creativity we used to take for granted.
So there should be no such criticisms this time. Inside Out sees Pixar exploring the inside of the human mind through some characters who represent our different emotions, the original ones being Joy and Sadness.
There's actually a similar set-up here as with Finding Nemo. Once the story is set up we have a journey centred around two main characters. Joy is the Marlin of the story, with a serious goal, getting frustrated when it isn't met. However, the Dory of the story is Sadness. Sadness questions Joy's decisions, but ultimately goes along with her plans and is more likely to slow down and listen to people than Joy is. But unlike Dory, Sadness is not an extrovert, which I feel also endears me to her. Though it takes a while to really get to know her character properly, precisely because Joy often tries to shove her into the sidelines.
Even though we are in her head, we don't really get much opportunity to think of the central girl, Riley, as a person. Like Andy in Toy Story, she's more of a macguffin than a genuine character in her own right. Still Pixar does a great job of making us care about all characters and there's no lack of the weepy moments we've come to expect now.
While Inside Out is definitely one of Pixar's better films, for me it doesn't really de-throne Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Up or even the last two Toy Story movies. It's not quite as consistently funny as Pixar's other masterpieces. But that doesn't matter because this is still Pixar on top form, overflowing with creativity, emotion, humour and the occasional serious insight into the human condition.
P.S. Wow, I've even successfully posted this on tumblr. W00t!
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Alejandro González Iñárritu was known for a series of connecting-story films which were visually impressive and even well acted, but often didn't have a terribly convincing theme tying it all together.
So nothing's really changed.
Birdman stars Michael Keaton as an actor only really known for his work as a well-known popular superhero franchise. Having quit that franchise his career has hit a slump and to get out of that slump he is putting on a big stage production.
Admittedly the film is just one story rather than a set of separate interlinking storylines, but it's still very bitty. The ideas in the film feel very disjointed and many are left pretty thoroughly unresolved. Edward Norton's arc feels unfinished. Lindsay Duncan's role feels entirely redundant. The whole film basically felt unfinished to me.
That being said, the performances are brilliant. Perhaps especially Emma Stone, who gives a more subtle performance than most.
There's one scene early on where Michael Keaton is deciding whether to accept Edward Norton into the production. They read through a scene together and Edward Norton makes the scene work. My problem is that the way he improves the scene is basically by suggesting they actually pay attention to the way the scene is written. We finish that section of the film with the impression that Edward Norton's.character will be a great addition to cast, when surely the more sensible conclusion is that Michael Keaton's character is a terrible director? Couldn't he already tell that the way he was initially suggesting they deliver their lines was bland and uninteresting?
The play Michael Keaton's character puts on within the film seems utterly terrible. I was quite relieved to be watching this movie rather than that play, even while the movie seems to expect me to be invested in the play's commercial success. Also, the all-in-one-take effect is a ridiculous gimmick. Yet I still found much to enjoy here. Birdman is stupid fun and on that level I liked it.
Syndromes and a Century (2006)
A film dealing with some censorship issues in Thailand, but not actually a film with a clear message, plot and with some characters I find frankly unbelievable.
One doctor seems to think DDT stands for "Destroy Dirty Things". It's not just that the answer sounds completely ridiculous (apparently the filmmaker's father, not realising he needed to KNOW the answer 'dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane', actually gave in real life), but that the actor reading the line looks utterly braindead as he does so. In a scene much later on that same doctor seems to be confused by his own hard-on.
But I found some other scenes involving Buddhist monks were very entertaining. There's one monk who feels very awkward when his dentist, having told him about his singing career, starts to sing to him. "Is this a checkup or a concert?" he asks.
Another Buddhist monk seems convinced that his chicken-related digestion issues are karmic in nature; almost like a revenge upon him for his prior mistreatment of chickens in his youth. The monk also seems confused that he cannot get extra prescriptions for fellow monks who the doctor has not seen and even their mothers.
So the scenes with the monks are fun, but the film isn't about monks. In fact, it is difficult to work out what the film is about. Very little happens. Occasionally the camera rotates around a statue of some unknown figure. There is also film of an extractor removing smoke from a room. I have no idea what point the filmmaker was trying to make.
This film is a slow dull waste of time.
In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
I'd seen this once before, but I'd forgotten how fantastic it was. I think time (and perhaps teaching high school children about Martin Luther King has helped me to better understand the mentality displayed here. On first watch, the townspeople just seemed cartoonishly evil and I found it very hard to empathise with Sidney Poitiers' decisions sometimes.
Now I see that this is a Hitchcockian crime thriller and while the townsfolk indeed are cartoonish, it is only in the tradition of Hitchcock's own dark sense of humour. Sidney Poitiers often seems much too cool under pressure, but that's what I found so great this time around. He's playing a smart and calculating badass who has the skill to outsmart every single person in the town, not least the police chief.
The supporting characters are performed very well too and the police chief deserves a special mention. There's great comic timing between the different characters and a fantastically farcical plot where the police chief can never make up his mind whether he wants Sidney Poitiers to leave, stay or go to prison.
This is surely one of the all time greats. I love it!
There are a variety of kinds of people and contexts in which people will make excuses for bullying. It’s pretty shocking to me. And strangely some of the apologists were even bullied as children themselves.
1) Bullies are bullied themselves.
You know what? Perrhaps it’s true. I’m not ruling out that in some or even many cases bullies have a hard time. But I also know that there are just as many people having a hard time who do NOT bully other people. What’s more there are many people who have rich parents and a fantastic home life and decide to bully others BECAUSE THEY ENJOY IT.
2) Bullying builds character.
I have actually heard some people claiming to be victims of bullying who use this. They claim that a bit of bullying didn't do them any harm. That it helped to make them the person they are. Within the film "Submarine" I was very happy to see a bully trying to make this excuse being told to fuck off and die.
Heck, if it was really true that bullying children helped them, we'd be encouraging teachers to berate children in kindergarten. It'd be a new technique in building children's character: Call them names and tease them about their insecurities. And I'd like to hope that we all recognise that this would be utterly obnoxious.
Children are going to deal with a variety of different people in school and they are going to come into conflict with some. Not everyone is going to be very nice all the time. But whatever we learn from our time dealing with obnoxious people, I don't think praising the obnoxious person for being horrible is part of the lesson.
3) It wasn't bullying. It was just doing them a favour.
Expanding on the example I've just given about "bullying building character", I've recently become a bit concerned by some of the responses to the movie "Whiplash". I was told today that JK Simmons' character in "Whiplash" is more noble then any bully. Let's just make this clear. The character, Fletcher, is a Jazz conductor. He berates and shouts obscenities at musicians in his jazz band and argues that this is to make them stronger people. That no one will become a great musician if they think making mistakes or not being perfect is 'okay'. That the worst thing you can say to somebody is "good job".
The thing is, before being told by this friend that they felt Fletcher's attitude was somehow "noble" I saw the documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa" about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, particularly one of the earliest reported cases in a school for the deaf. The priest responsible for the abuse had a number of excuses and all of them were along the lines of "I'm just helping them". I'm putting the actual excuses he made under a cut because they are particularly horrible:
- "There was rampant homosexuality amongst the boys. I fixed the problem"
- "I thought if I played around with a kid once per week they would have their needs met"
- "I thought I was taking their sins on myself."
- "It was self-education for them they were confused about sex."
Bullies don't think they are bad people and will make excuses for their actions. They may even believe these excuses. But we'd be fools to believe the bullies when they try to tell us that it was all for the victim's own good.
Here's the real deal. Bullies bully because, for whatever reason, they like doing it. If they think they can get away with something which gives them a feeling of power over others, they will do so. Even if there is an underlying reason for their poor behaviour linked to problems at home or the like, they should still receive the school punishments because it needs to be clear that cranking out a sob story does nothing to excuse what they have done. No matter how bad things have been for you, you are still responsible for your actions towards others. And there is no excuse for bullying. Bullies do not get to point to your achievements which were in some way linked to the adversity you faced from bullying and say "I enabled you to do that." What kind of logic would it be to point to post-apocalyptic themes in Japanese movies and manga and claim "you owe the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs for that".
Bulling sucks and it should be stopped. No excuses.
(This entry is also posted to my new tumblr.)
A Woman Under The Influence (1974)
A film about a woman who behaves very strangely and just doesn't seem to fit in with everyone else.
I heard this film mentioned in a review on Letterboxd and discovered that it was generally very well received.
Just looking at the trailer I could tell that Gena Rowlands is an extremely compelling figure. She is utterly bonkers here. Hee.behaviour is so erratic it's difficult to tell whether she's bi-polar, an alcoholic, just socially awkward, or all three.
Perhaps she's just finding it hard to cope with being Columbo's wife? Actually Columbo (by which I mean the actor Peter Falk) is pretty good as the well-meaning husband who becomes violent when exasperated (as opposed to being simply a maliciously abusive person). While the wife is eccentric and loopy, the husband has to be the down-to-earth typical flawed man.
The problem is that part way through Gena Rowlands gets sent away and we are left with the more typical husband and it's simply not interesting.
The only other characters are both the husband and wife's mothers and the rest of the husband's construction crew. None of them are important. And it's odd that we are clearly shown that this couple have an enormous number of friends, yet the only ones we see are the husband's co-workers.
The point is, when Gena Rowlands is sent away, we are left following Columbo. And we just miss Gena Rowlands. I know why we don't follow her into psychiatric care. Audiences get very judgemental of that sort of thing and even if they are right to judge, it's not the point of the film. What they want to show is how bad the father is to the children without his wife's help. But frankly I could have done without that whole section. I'd have rather we just jumped forward in time through that part. Sure that would shorten the film, but that's why I ask: Doesn't Gena Rowlands have any friends? Wasn't there scope to see her interacting with someone other than her his husband's workmates?
"A Woman Under The Influence" is a pretty uneventful film, but it is well worth checking out thanks to the two central performances, particularly Gena Rowlands, who I'd be very interested to see again in another film. (I'm intrigued by the movie "Gloria" from 1980.)B-
Away From Her (2006)
I had high expectations.for this one. Julie Christie is portraying dementia and in an early scene in a doctor's office we get a wonderful characterisation of a dementia patient confabulating and avoiding acknowledging her issue. When unable to find the words to answer a question she changes the subject. Part way through through discussion she forgets where her coat is and when she finds it she presumes she was about to leave. When she realises it is not yet time to leave, she confabulates that she must have been cold.
Unfortunately this scene is as smart as the film gets. Very soon she moves into a community for dementia sufferers seemingly far too early. Her husband does not appear to go out to work and even if he did, daycare would still be an option. Julie Christie's character is downright philosophical about her condition when she's moved into special care. What's more, that meeting in the doctors early in the film is the closest she ever comes to an argument. Even when clearly utterly confused she is still unfathomably calm and reasonable.
There's a distinct feeling that this movie is sugar-coating what it is like for sufferers of dementia. So it is no surprise when we have seemingly the least heavily worked or stressed nurse ever, regularly providing the male protagonist with helpful advice and even psychoanalysing him. Bizarrely apparently the reason why Julie Christie completely forgets her husband and starts sleeping with another patient is because her husband used to cheat on her in the past. Frankly, I had trouble buying into this.
On top of this, there's a very weird time skipping device used, whereby we keep coming back to this one relatively banal conversation between the male protagonist and the wife of another patient. What is the point?
I remember when watching "All Is Lost" with Robert Redford thinking that it didn't quite seem realistic and then hearing strong confirmation that it was more unrealistic than I'd even suspected. I'm now seeing similar reports that this is not realistic in regards to dementia. It's a pity, since Julie Christie's performance is utterly brilliant (within the confines of the script). The husband isn't all that great, but he's alright. The movie, however, is all a bit unreal and not nearly as engaging as the introductory scenes seemed to promise.
I have mixed feelings on this one. I was very upset when Edgar Wright left this project because I was very excited about what he would do with it, but I heard from a friend that this was actually really good.
On the one hand, right from the start this had a rather flat scene. It wasn't the sort of bombastic opening we'd expect from a superhero film... or from an Edgar Wright film.
There are quite a few scenes in the film which seem very Edgar Wright-esque and certainly his name is still on the script. But I feel that the drama elements would have gelled better under his direction. I find it very hard to buy into most character moments and pacing felt awkward to me.
That being said, I still had a lot of fun. The action scenes were exciting and inventive. There were some cool visual ideas too. But what I look for in the cheery silly Marvel films is humour and oddly I found the humour could have been better and there were rather too many lulls in the comedy (to make way for unconvincing and cheesy drama). That's despite there being a few scenes that were absolutely hilarious.
I kept hearing that Ant-Man was a ridiculous concept. Now clearly nobody meant the 'shrinking man' aspect. That's a classic movie trope. But I've got to give the filmmakers credit for making the idea of using shrinking and growing as a method of fighting work so well and for making the whole 'controlling ants' aspect of Ant-Man's powers so consistent and effective.
Ant-Man has some great moments, but overall it feels a bit awkward. The film works in bits and pieces and sadly I think this never quite finds its footing as a solid entry in the Marvel franchise in its own right. Still I wouldn't be grumpy about sitting through this one again in a Marvel Studios movie marathon.
Wow, people can be seriously petty about awards nominees can't they? And once again I'm completely at odds with popular opinion. I thought Imitation Game was pretty damn great while I found Birdman awkwardly unfocussed but good silly fun and found the awesomely acclaimed Whiplash was plain dull. Sorry everyone, I'm just weird I guess.
Anyway, let me now let you know what I felt about the Stephen Hawking biopic "The Theory of Everything".
Biopics seem to be tough for filmmakers to get right. There's a tendency not to be sure how to end them, which can lead filmmakers to settle for finishing with a death as if that were an important summation of the celebrity's achievements. Thankfully, since Stephen Hawking hasn't died yet, that wasn't an option here.
Another problem can be that a list of the events of a person's life as lived can be rather dull. The film cannot just simply show us what they did, but have to dramatise it. But since these are stories of real people, dramatisations can seem crass. Certainly, while there are reasons to depict Alan Turing as autistic, that interpretation still felt a bit shoehorned in, possibly at the expense of a deeper reading of Turing's life.
In "The Theory Of Everything" the focus is on Hawking's relationship with his wife. There's a lot of scope for depth here. The struggles of assisting a husband whose condition makes him more of a handful than the children sometimes. A husband whose research seems to conflict ideologically with her faith and which she inevitably must understand and take seriously in order to be supportive. A period of emotional strain taking care of Hawking through a terminal illness, which waa supposed to last two years and ended up going on for decades.
I found this depiction fascinating and while plenty has been said about Eddie Redmayne's performance as Stephen Hawking, I find it odd that I haven't heard more praise for Felicity Jones for her fantastic portrayal of his long-suffering wife.
And why did nobody mention that frikkin' Daredevil is in this?!!?! (Actor Charlie Cox) ;)
There are a few moments towards the beginning where ideas are over explained for Americans towards the beginning. For example the meaning of the term 'C of E' is spelled out particularly unnecessarily. Also it's hard to believe that a student in Cambridge at the time would need to be informed as to what a viva is.
Contrary to what I'd heard, I thought the science Stephen Hawking developed was pretty central to the story. Sure, if I weren't so impressed by the family drama I might have been irritated. But the family setting is the central focus and I don't think I'm doing myself a disservice by saying that the science is pretty hard to explain accurately, clearly and simply enough for the average novice like myself to comprehend. I really don't blame the filmmakers for sticking to the basics.
The Theory of Everything is a fantastic biopic with superb performances. It still has that sense that it is skipping through a much longer more complex story because, I suppose, it is. This is the sort of problem inherent in most biopics. But with that taken for granted, this is absolutely fantastic.
Citizen Kane (1942)
Citizen Kane has long been synonymous with 'great movie'. When critic Mark Kermode asserted that Michael Bay could one day make Citizen Kane, he wasn't reporting that Platinum Dunes had selected their next godawful shameless remake. Rather he was using Citizen Kane as shorthand for a brilliant classic and enormous milestone in the history of cinema and asserting that such an achievement could arise unexpectedly from anywhere.
However, I'd also been told that Citizen Kane was unlikely to meet the hype. So convinced was I by this that I very nearly skipped the film entirely. But when the greatest movie in cinematic history is going dirt cheap in a bargain bin it's hard to turn down.
We begin with random images and the iconic scene where Orson Welles utters the word 'rosebud' and drops a snowglobe
Next begins a seemingly endless newsreel, 'News On The March', with a special feature on the central protagonist. The annoying voiceover really got to me. Seriously, we get it, Kane is massively rich and influential and now he's dead. Can the movie start any time soon?
Nearly a quarter of an hour in, we finally get started. Turns out the characters in the film aren't any more impressed by the 'News On The March' reel than I was. And now I think of it, openings for movies around this time were often long series of credits to allow the audience to gradually settle down into their seats. (Researching it now, it seems that it was intended as a satire of a series of newsreels often shown in cinemas at the time entitled "The March Of Time".)
In a way, the fake reel might have been a bit of trick on the audience who could well expect a real news reel before the main feature was scheduled to start.
A lot of flashbacks are involved as a journalist tries to uncover the mystery of the final words of tycoon Kane. Orson Welles plays the part with real panache. But I'm still a little confused as to how his character inherited a fortune from a surrogate father figure he hates. I never quite understood was how he came to inherit billions. It looks like he gets bought from his parents by a bank.
Still Orson Welles is very charismatic in the younger versions of his character and has a very convincing shift in mannerisms in his older iterations.
This is a pretty great biopic about a fictional character. It actually reminds me of "It's A Wonderful Life". As I watch I was wondering how the untrue story could really satisfy without some equivalent to the angel visitation moment. But I really think the 'reluctant billionaire' story made a genuine statement about real life. And it didn't matter that the 'twist' was spoiled either.
Is it the best film ever? That's a lot of baggage to heap on any film and I'm not inclined to do so with this one. The more important question is whether the film is entertaining and engaging. And it really is. I enjoyed it a lot and would be happy to revisit it.I think people should feel free to potter around for the first quarter of an hour though, if they find themselves feeling restless.A+
The Big Sleep (1946)
This is my first Humphrey Bogart film. Sure, the Bogart movie most often recommended is "The Maltese Falcon", but this is the one I found in a bargain bin so there you go.
To cut to the chase, I wasn't a fan. Bogart speaks super-fast and while he's supposed to be solving a mystery, he seems to rush to conclusions and his explanations never seem to add up.
The way female characters behave here is bizarre. There's an outdated movie logic at play here and I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to accept these characters were real people.
And this is a real pity, since the style of the film is pretty cool. Some parts are pretty exciting, but mostly I was just frustrated. It didn't help that I had real trouble keeping track of the names. I'm good with faces, but I normally need the names more than once. Here we get often get gossip about characters offscreen, sometimes even before we've even met the characters.
I didn't regret watching this, but it wasn't for me.
Dude Bro Party Massacre III
Spoofs can get carried away with making commentary on the original material and bringing in wacky randomness so they forget to be genuinely funny in their own right and sadly that is what happens here.
With so many actors I recognised from VGHS, SMBC Theatre and Cracked I couldn't help but find a lot of the film endearing. (Patton Oswalt is actually one of the less amusing actors here.)
There are some particularly memorable elements like the subtitles which are appeals to be rescued from the basement. The theory about the identity of the villain is pretty cool. Basically this film needed to be a lot shorter and a lot of the dud jokes needed to be edited out.
I wanted to like this, but the humour was way too hit and miss, with far too many misses. The comic actors are great, but the material is inconsistent.
Find Me Guilty (2006)
Vin Diesel gives a surprisingly cool turn as a mafia stooge with a quirky persona who represents himself in a trial against the mafia as a whole. He's genuinely charming and funny in the role.
Just as important, though not as surprising since he's always brilliant is Peter Dinklage as the main lawyer paid to represent the mafia.
The case against the mafia never seems very strong, even at the start, and it's unclear why the prosecution is such a shambles. I couldn't help but feel that they were steering clear of mentioning the harsh crimes of the mafia because, bizarrely, they want us to like them as a goofy charming 'family'. Quite apart from the airy and fluffy style of the film in general, this big elephant in the room that was oddly ignored became an issue for me.
Not really all that funny and rather lacking in drama. Still, quite a surprising turm from Vin Diesel all the same and a fairly engaging watch albeit with a lot of unmet potential.
BTW if the crusades have already begun, your film isn't actually set during the dark ages. Just saying...
Alternative title: "Predator vs The Living History Association"
Clearly the filmmakers had a lot of fun with this 25 minute short film, but unfortunately it didn't really translate to me in the audience (though it remains better than most official Predator movies anyway).
Particularly frustrating was the early loss of the one female character, who seemed to be the only one with a long range weapon.
Nothing much really happens. The characters are pretty flat. But it's quite fun in spite of the slow pacing.
I'm actually quite proud to say that I haven't included Marvel Studios superhero movies in any of my 'very best movies' lists from 2008 to 2013. While I'm glad they are holding expensive disposable entertainment to a pretty high standard, they aren't 'top ten of the year' material. And that's not because I'm holding some kind of pretentious 'quality cinematography only' standard. I judge films based on entertainment value above budget or presentation or critical praise elsewhere. So why mention them here? Because every movie podcast (and I listen to those a lot) cannot seem to stop talking about every little rumour and every bit of gossip about 'superhero films superhero films superhero films' all the blooming time. I just wanted it to be noted that in this list and in all my final definite 'best of the year' lists, the Marvel moves are not there.
Actually I gave the Watchmen director's cut an honourable mention in 2009. Is that because it's better than all the Marvel films? Y'know what? I'm gonna say put my foot down and say yes. Snyder couldn't handle a brand new Superman movie, but his adaptation of Watchmen was fantastic (apart from Nixon's comedy nose) and actually improved on the ending of Alan Moore's graphic novel.
Well, so much for not discussing superhero films. The final list includes several foreign language films, a horror remake, and a strangely elusive cartoon, not to mention a title from Saudi Arabia created against the odds by a female director. There were so many wonderful films in 2013 and it's crazy the amount of time that I must have spent defending Ben Kingsley's brilliant comic turn in "Iron Man 3" from people who thought he should have been some kind of wizard.
Here are links to my previous lists:
Very Best Movies of 2012
Very Best Movies of 2011
Very Best Movies of 2010
Very Best Movies of 2009
Very Best Movies of 2008
So without further ado here are my top 10 picks from 2013:
10 - Maniac
Uk release: 15 March 2013
An exceptional remake which, instead of competing with the original, reimagines and complements the original. Making use of a similar aesthetic to Winding Refn's "Drive" (city nights lit with neon and accompanied by the 'new retro' synth style) it calls back to the 80s at the same time as feeling very current. Elijah Wood's first person perspective in the film is very effective and his preference for mannequins over people makes for a compelling Psycho-esque serial killer.
Franck Khalfoun's next movie is "I-Lived", a very weird-looking horror film about a man whose life is taken over by a mobile app. He's also working on "Amityville: The Reawakening".
9 - Rush
Uk release: 13 September 2013
At first glance, this would appear to be a by-the-numbers sports film. But it turns out to be a very strong character centred film given particular weight by Daniel Brühl's underdog performance. He's not only an underdog because he's playing Nicky Lauda, the rival F1 driver to the handsome and charming James Hunt, but also because that rival in the movie is played by Chris Hemsworth, who seemed to be viewed as the hotter property of the two. You don't need to care about Formula One racing to be gripped by this exciting drama which completely defies typical expectations for a biopic.
Ron Howard's next movie, "In The Heart Of The Sea" stars Chris Hemsworth again. It is about a whaling ship preyed upon by a sperm whale.
Daniel Brühl will play Baron Zemo in Marvel Studio's "Captain America: Civil War" movie.
8 - A Hijacking
Uk release: 10 May 2013
Before Captain Phillips was released, there was this gripping drama from Denmark. Nobody fights the pirates away and there are no subtitles for the Somali pirates either. Yet the pirates actually feel more like real people here and this film certainly provides a clearer picture of the nightmarishness of a hijacking. But the heart of the film is a man who is not on the ship. A confident business negotiator who refuses to hand over.responsibility to anyone else, certain that he is the best negotiator available and convinced that he can maintain a cool head.
The film doesn't use dramatic music and it doesn't have rousing speeches. What it has is an intense portrayal of the horrors of a successful hijacking. This film really made an impression on me.
Tobias Lindholm's next movie is "Krigen" ("A War") about a Danish commander in Afghanistan whose decisions lead him to be accused of war crimes.
7 - The Impossible
Uk release: 1 January 2013
Misleadingly rated '12A' in the UK, there were reports of some audience members fainting and throwing up in the aisles. While on the one hand this is a sentimental story for all the family, the effects work provides a stark and graphic impression of what it was like to be caught in the middle of the flood currents after the tsunami hit. We'd all already seen faceless groups of people washed away by the giant waves, so the movie does not even bother with that more typical disaster movie imagery. Instead the filmmakers force us to see the suffering of this one family. We experience the tsunami as they did and yes that means we spend most time with tourists rather than Thai locals. This is a drama that really hits you where it hurts.
J.A. Bayona's next movie is "A Monster Calls", starring Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell (that last one played Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). "A Monster Calls" is about a boy coping with his mother's terminal illness and calls on a tree monster to help. J.A. Bayona has also been announced as the director of the sequel to "World War Z"
Prominent child actor Tom Holland has been cast as Spider-Man by Marvel Studios.
6 - Django Unchained
Uk release: 18 January 2013
Quentin Tarantino is still doing the genre mash-up style he started with the totally wacky Kill Bill films. However, this time we get a linear and focussed central storyline about a slave who is freed and teams up with his liberator to rescue his wife. It's a pretty crazy action movie and it's uniquely.Tarantino in the way only Tarantino can be. Unlike Inglourious Basterds it feels like Tarantino has researched the period a bit, rather than just the classic films of the period. In fact, besides being a western this has little in common with the old Django movies. Tarantino seems to have done his homework this time, worrying rather more about including.accurate details from history than bragging about his film knowledge. There's actually very little connecting this with.the original Django movies beyond the genre of Western. The aim here is to enable the black protagonist to show two fingers* to slavery.
(*I refer to the British hand gesture here because of its specific indication to an opponent that you are still alive, free and a force to be reckoned with. The original meaning being to show the French that you still had two fingers for firing the longbow.)
Quentin Tarantino's next movie is "The Hateful Eight".
5 - Ernest And Celestine
Uk DVD release: 27 May 2013
It took a remarkably long time before I could see this incredibly sweet Belgian cartoon. Even then it was subtitles only. My copy of the movie was great for me, but if I ever need something to show to young children this will be hopeless. (Even if the children were French, the English subtitles cannot be switched off.) But Ernest and Celestine is funny, creative, heart-melting and a wonderful delight in every way. It is possibly more moving than even Pixar's greatest hits.
4 - Wadjda
Uk release: 19 July 2013
I initially checked out Wadjda because it was a unique accomplishment: A film from a female director in Saudi Arabia, sometimes directed from inside a van because of laws impeding her right to freely express herself through film. However, that background didn't bias me towards liking the film. In fact, I was all ready to hate it. No aliens, no robots, no.time travel, so what's the hook? As it turns out, every now and then there's a beautiful character driven story like "Amelie" "Frances Ha" or "We Are The Best" which really captures the imagination without any need for too many outlandish elements.
That being said, the character of Wadjda isn't a dull goody two-shoes. She has a clear (friendly) rivalry with a local boy and she's pretty much grifting at school. But all the same it's difficult to explain how entertaining a film can be when the main focus is a girl who wants a bicycle, but the culture where she lives makes this more controversial than you'd expect.
Haifaa Al-Mansour is in pre-production on "A Storm In The Stars" about the love affair which accompanied the creation of the novel "Frankenstein".
3 - The World's End
Uk release: 19 July 2013
The last movie in Edgar Wright's cornetto trilogy sees Nick Frost finally playing the sensible straight man and Simon Pegg getting to be completely insufferable (rather than moderately insufferable like he was in "Shaun Of The Dead" and the tv show Spaced). Of course British comedy has a long tradition of utterly obnoxious and completely unredeemed comic figures who are the butt of all the jokes. From Bernard Black to Alan Partidrdge to Basil Fawlty, unrepentant arseholes represent some of the greatest characters in British comedy history.
Enter Gary King, who has more trouble coping with change than most and is driven by the need to return with his friends to the pub crawl they attempted at the end of secondary school, the last time he can remember being happy. A "From Dusk Til Dawn" level genre shift occurs part way through, but that also heralds some awesome action sequences. (You know the Church scene in Kingsman? The second half of The World's End is full of action sequences just as intricate and exciting.) For me this was the best of the Cornetto trilogy and the best of Edgar Wright's career so far.
After a long time spent working on the Ant-Man movie Edgar Wright is now in pre-production on "Baby Driver" about a doomed heist.
2 - Antiviral
Uk release: 1 February 2013
Sci-fi is a tough genre because it is so often done badly and so much praise for sci-fi movies is more about the visuals than the ideas. A lot of sci-fi is basically fantasy with robots instead of elves, but the best sci-fi has serious ideas to explore about our own modern world and the high technology or unprecedented scenario is the way to explore those ideas.
With "Antiviral", not only does Brandon Cronenberg create a throwback to the great body horror classics we all loved so much from his father's earlier career, but also makes a great high concept sci-fi movie. Antiviral takes the modern obsession with celebrities to the nth degree. In the future people still obsess over celebrities, but they also eat the flesh of celebrities (reproduced from their DNA) and even request the same diseases of their celebrities. It's not even clear what the celebrities are even famous for and that's part of the point - it doesn't matter.
Caleb Landry Jones gives a subtle creepy performance and makes for a compelling anti-hero. His job is to sell celebrity obsession, but he's as caught up in it as anyone. It's a compelling yet subtle central performance.
1 - Stoker
Uk release: 1 March 2013
While I'd consistently followed Chan-Wook Park's career since "Oldboy", I felt he produced more misses than hits. Park is a great director, but along with a number of other Korean directors, he has a tendency to blend horror with humour. While I love the way Joon-Ho Bong balances those two elements, I didn't find Park so consistent.
However, in "Stoker" the dark humour and unreal wackiness is very well handled. Even though there are no overt fantasy elements, I couldn't help but be reminded of "The Addams Family". There's a 'twisted family' theme and a resulting twisted coming-of-age story along with it.
While Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman are both excellent, it is the central performance from Mia Wasikowska (who continues to shine in films like "Tracks", "The Double" and "Maps To The Stars") which really blew me away here.
Chan-Wook Park's next movie is a modernised adaptation of the novel "Fingersmith" set in Korea.
Mia Wasikowska will star in Guillermo Del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” and the upcoming adaptation of “Alice Through The Looking Glass”.
Honourable Mention - Flukt (Escape)
Uk DVD release: 29 July 2013
The director of the excellent Scandinavian Cold Prey movies comes up with a terrifying period piece. In a similar vein to Neil Marshall’s “Centurion” or Christopher Smith’s “Black Death”, this depicts a horrifying scenario in a medieval era. In the aftermath of the black plague a family is set upon by outlaws and a girl is captured. The outlaws are led by a woman played by the excellent Ingrid Bolso Berdal (main protagonist in Cold Prey) who has become hardened by her circumstances and is utterly terrifying.
The multifaceted characters and genuinely skin-crawling atmosphere makes this an exciting rollercoaster ride of a film, but certainly not an easy watch.
A hypocritical Pentecostal preacher is a complete douche. His douchiness leads him to find himself on the run from the police.
Once on the run, he decides to try to set up a Church before the police catch up with him. And for some reason we're expected to care. Frankly the character hasn't changed one bit once we reach the end of the film.
Robert Duvall is pretty cool in the main role and it was nice to see Walton Goggins (from The Shield) and Miranda Richardson too. There was nothing really wrong with any of the performances. I just felt the story was all a bit pointless.
Mainly the film just established how little I understand the appeal of Pentecostal preaching. It just felt incredibly repetitive and heck, how could it not when it involves getting the congregation to say "Jesus" many times in a row, over and over again. And the showmanship of the preaching seemed incredibly fake. Now all these impressions may be intentional, but I was at a loss as to why I should care.
Well made, well acted and kinda boring. The message went right over my head.
American Gangster (2007)
Possibly my favourite Ridley Scott film. Even as a sci-fi fan I've never been hugely fond of Ridley Scott’s far more lauded “Alien” or “Blade Runner”; two very atmospheric films where very little actually happens.
While "American Gangster" is mostly untrue to life, that doesn't really matter. Gangster movies don't need to be accurate biopics and any fool could probably guess that that the real life gangster would be a violent thug rather than a suave sophisticated Denzel Washington figure. We can no doubt also guess that setting up his drug importation scheme would need rather more help than Denzel receives in the film.
But as a story about a black gangster who takes some extreme steps to dominate the drugs trade, this is absolutely brilliant.
I was able to engage better than normal with Russell Crowe as a morally ambiguous side-character. I seem to find it difficult to accept Russell Crowe as a hero.
"American Gangster" is an exciting, intelligent and thoroughly well constructed story with a neat spin on the gangster movie genre. Denzel Washington carries the movie with aplomb, but he's also backed up by an incredible cast of black actors: Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr, ... It's a spectacular cast.
I truly believe this is Ridley Scott's best film.