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Weeknotes #713-714

So, a busy, stressful couple of weeks, then.

Some good things: new reviews on Thumped (Paul G Smyth/Chris Corsano Duo live at the NCH) and Burning Ambulance (the new Bosse-de-Nage album), plus a couple of press screenings (one just for leisure, the new Mad Max movie last night at the Savoy’s big screen).

Some bad things: a ridiculously late night on Tuesday (working till 2.30am) that didn’t have to be that way, and a head cold just about kept in check by decongestants that seem to have had the undesired effect of leaving me dry-mouthed and constantly thirsty.

But hey, it’s Friday, there’s live wrestling this weekend and there’s Lidl chocolate in the fridge, so I’m alright.

My Letterboxd reviews of Big Eyes and Cold In July

Big Eyes is a departure for Tim Burton, but that doesn’t help matters:

I have to credit my other half with this summation: Big Eyes is a film about honesty that isn’t honest in any way. Tim Burton takes the ostensibly true-life story of Margaret Keane as an opportunity to make a film very much out of his style, but his lack of comfort beyond the Burtonisms is palpable. The resulting tale plays against a weird pastiche of Vertigo crossed with Sweet Smell of Success, sprinkled with odd references to his own films, and ends with such a whimper you’d be forgiven for thinking he messed up the edit. It’s watchable, but only just.

Continued…

My Letterboxd review of Monsters University

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

So I wasn’t expecting much from this one, especially with recent Pixar fare doing nothing for me (Brave, especially, looks under-detailed and poorly textured, while its story falls on the ‘but she’s a modern Disney princess’ conceit that holds no water when you consider the likes of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, etc). But Monsters University might be my favourite Pixar film.

It’s easily their most visually striking. The trees, the asphalt, the stone, the chrome – they all look so real! Even the monsters themselves, while conforming to the ‘Pixar body shape’ trope, have differing skin textures to subtly distinguish from each other. And there’s a hint of tilt-shift on the ‘camera’ that gives the whole production an almost stop-motion vibe. Amazing work by the Pixar team there; their friends down in Burbank should take note.

But the story is there, too. I stopped thinking of it as a prequel fairly early on (and who really needs Sulley and Mike’s backstory, anyway?) because it’s way more a homage to ’80s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ style campus comedies. It’s a fun ride that feels genuine and unforced, completely aware of its cliches but played with affection, without a trace of jaded hipster irony. I think of ParaNorman as another recent animated feature that goes along the same lines, and I feel like Monsters University sits alongside it at the pinnacle.

My Letterboxd reviews of The Boxtrolls and Nightcrawler

The Boxtrolls is alright, but not the best Laika can do:

Five stars to Laika for another superb job, both in animation and direction. Just a shame – like the underwhelming, overrated Coraline – that the source material isn’t up to scratch. I’ve love to see Laika take on an actual adaptation of Discworld, rather than this Discworld-wannabe effort, as the allusions to (if not downright rip-offs from) Terry Pratchett’s creation are too obvious to ignore. In the meantime, they should return to original fare like the superlative ParaNorman, because they’ve clearly got a knack for it.

Continued…

My Letterboxd review of The Raid 2

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

I wanted to like this one more than I did, as I quite enjoyed the original. And I appreciate that writer/director Gareth Evans tried to do something different: a repeat of the first film’s side-scrolling beat-’em-up plot would’ve been a waste of time. The Hong Kong/Yakuza gangster flick direction was a good way to go in terms of story, and those dramatic elements work very well, even if the plot is needlessly labyrinthine.

But it’s far, far too long (should be closer to 90 minutes, not two-and-a-half hours!) and the ultra-realism of the violence and gore tips the expertly staged fight scenes and general action from thrilling to grim. By the climactic duel in the kitchen (it’s in the trailer, no spoiler), it was just washing over me; I didn’t feel excited or invested, more exhausted – with a thousand-yard stare.

Weeknotes #711-712

With the paper schedule out of whack the last couple of weeks, I’m still playing catch-up on a few things: album reviews, a gig review, a press screening write-up. At least with this bank holiday weekend I’ve had a breather of sorts to triage my commitments and carve out some valuable time for thinking and contemplation.

Continued…