I have quibbles with this list. Billy Wilder made funnier films than Some Like It Hot, for one, and in general the selection is top heavy with the kinds of films one might feel they ought to rate. But shuffle the deck, cutting out the Woody Allens (Annie Hall excepted, they’re simply not funny — I mean, besides the obvious), and maybe sequestering the early-20th-century works, and you’ve got yourself a decent pot luck. #link
October’s viewing was a mixed bag: a handful of cinema trips, one of them a press show (for Brawl in Cell Block 99, as previously linked); a few dips into Netflix and other streaming services; genres all over the place; and one classic rewatch that stands the test of time. More…
Here’s a good essay from over the summer about an underrated actor, and person, that should get a re-up in this ‘post-Weinstein world’. It highlights how much the system is set against women who try to buck it (and how much it goes out of its way to conform to men who do the same, or worse). #link
Compared to July and August, September was a quiet month for movies watched round these parts. Mind you, two involved trips to the cinema as a paying punter, though one I regret spending those few euros on (see if you can guess which one). More…
If you haven’t yet seen Year of the Dragon or To Live and Die in LA, get that sorted before watching this great discussion of two of the 1980s’ finest crime films. (Be forewarned, the video is NSFW.) #video
Vanity Fair marks the filmmaker’s 75th birthday with some of his finest remarks. Take this, on the South American jungle while filming Fitzcarraldo: “The trees here are in misery, the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain.” [c/o LinkMachineGo] #link
It’s won awards and it’s getting rave reviews, but I thought it was awful. And I get the feeling if it were anything but an Irish film it would get ripped apart. The only grace is the genuine connection between the two leads, but it’s not a saving one. #link
I may not have been blogging much here, but I did ramp up my movie-watching over the summer — mostly thanks to my dive into ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series (not all of which I’ve reviewed, mind).
Among the films I watched in July and August is one of the best of the year thus far in War for the Planet of the Apes. And on average the quality has been pretty good, with only a handful of duds to speak of. More…
Despite promising to myself that I would more carefully audit the quality of the films I watch for pleasure/personal edification, I still managed to watch one of the worst things I’ve seen in many a year. Must do better in July. More…
The third entry in the Freddy franchise trades the inventive gore and straight-up weirdness of the original, and the sexuality allegory of the unfairly maligned second effort, for a more fantastic scenario that nevertheless has its queasy moments (the ‘string puppet’ scene near the start, especially). It’s not as well paced as you might remember it (Freddy’s barely in it; I doubt Robert Englund had to wear the makeup for more than a week) and pretty much runs out of steam in the final act, where it’s more a showcase for the technical skills of the special effects artists than a story worth following. Indeed, I forgot about the Harryhausen tribute at the end; I burst out laughing, but not in a bad way.
What a treat this is: a genuinely funny, sweet and touching comedy-drama about a non-traditional family and the unique creature who shakes up their lives. But it arrived before most people cared about such things, and doesn’t fit neatly into the Disney canon, so is unfairly overlooked (even by me, hence why it’s taken me so long to see it).
The first ‘straight’ genre pastiche from the Astron-6 collective, The Void is a film very much in thrall of its influences in lieu of its own worldbuilding: it’s basically Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness and a few others crossed with Fulci’s The Beyond, by way of Hellraiser and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft flicks. What’s more, the awful lighting makes it largely impossible to appreciate the practical effects, which are Empire Pictures weird-veering-on-hokey rather than other-worldly terrifying, so I don’t know why they bothered. I didn’t hate watching it, though.
Yoshitoki Ōima’s slice-of-life manga perhaps naturally loses some of its plot clarity and character development in the translation to the big screen, compressing an 18-month-long story into a two-hour movie and all that. But the spirit is intact, as a disconnected group of teenagers – one of them deaf – try to mend the wounds they inflicted on one another when they were younger and knew no better. Emotionally genuine, and beautifully animated. Very much recommended if you liked Toradora!
Maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that genre filmmaking is a more welcoming place for women to get a foothold, whether telling their own stories or just telling good stories full stop. But I’m not a filmmaker or a woman, nor do I know any in the industry. #link
That’s a good question. Certainly there are films that grow better with age, and multiple viewings can reveal new things with each experience. But does that mean said films need to be seen more than once to be fair in judgement about them? I don’t think so, and if that’s what the filmmaker intends, then that’s a bad filmmaker. Speaking as a reviewer? It’s not a prerequisite to watch more than once, since the vast majority of people will pay to see a movie only once. That doesn’t, however, preclude reappraising a film after the fact. (Also: I’m not a re-reader of books, and I don’t think it’s fair to compare books with films in that respect; the investment of time and mental resources is completely different.) #link
My first film review in weeks, for various reasons mostly related to not being able to make it to press screenings. Shame it’s for another dud, and that’s coming from a fan of the people involved. #link
I really wanted to like this. I really did. I was even willing to forgive the handful of creaky moments in its first half hour — paper-thin characters, hackneyed set-ups and more — because the pace is so exciting. When the titular giant ape makes his first appearance, it’s at a genuinely unexpected moment, and the chaos is handled beautifully by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I was ready for a thrill ride.
But it’s all downhill from there. You see, it’s one thing to reference other movies, to pay visual or thematic homage; that’s something the otherwise narratively impoverished A Cure for Wellness does to its credit. It’s another, however, to simply mash-up the plots of a few different movies and hope that nostalgia will fill the cracks.
So James Mangold finally got to make his R-rated Wolverine. And? Strip away the air of ‘serious film’-ness surrounding this super-anti-hero flick and it’s a fairly ordinary road movie, gussied up by a gritty pomo western style, relatively extreme violence, and uncharacteristic potty-mouth dialogue. All very cute, like when Jackman says ‘fuck off’ in that Avengers cameo. Fanboys can shove it.
The writer and script editor collecting tweeted thoughts on various TV and film type things. Can’t say I agree with everything, and certainly not his take on the Ghostbusters reboot (it’s not a fraction as funny as it thinks it is, and I fucking hate the Holtzmann character). But his tweets on Rogue One get to the nuts and bolts of why it doesn’t really work. My own review is superficial in hindsight, too forgiving of its flaws, but it’s a fairly superficial movie that I was evaluating in the context of a greater disappointment. #link
This video gets a bit too cute in its definition of passable (focusing on certain film tropes ‘passing’ for genuine human interactions, but ignoring that such tropes have an important role to play in the medium). Still, the bigger point stands; I’ve seen far too many passable movies lately — and been permissive about it, too. My film diet needs greater nutritional value. #video
Macon Blair’s directorial debut, a blackly comic revenge film, suffers from first-film-itis for much of its running time. Its obvious influences (mostly his old filmmaking pal Jeremy Saulnier, with a smattering of Edgar Wright) get in the way of a story that’s unevenly focused as it is, one minute a me-against-the-world drama, the next a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style cringe comedy. Things improve markedly in the final act, however, with an explosion of violence that brings a film with quirky, flighty tendencies back down to earth hard. David Yow (he of noise rock legends The Jesus Lizard) is a revelation as the primary heel of the piece, and Elijah Wood brings his usual charm as the oddball sidekick, but it’s Melanie Lynskey in the lead who holds it all together, just about, as the woman who decides she can no longer bear to let the bastards get her down.
Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.
It’s bland, it’s pat, it’s sentimental — nothing like the extraordinary true story it sets out to re-tell. #link
Folding Ideas on Suicide Squad and its terrible editing. Some of its problems are obviously in the screenplay and the poor direction and framing, to be fair, but even without those issues, the way it's put together is remarkably lazy. #video
Just piping up to recommend Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it already.
Think a mildly gore-splattered Desperate Housewives with the sensibility of 30 Rock. If that floats your boat, give it a couple of episodes to get going and find its tone; by the third, you’ll know.
For me, it’s all in the combination of great writing — especially in the fleshed-out characters and relationships — and spot-on casting. You can’t go wrong with Drew Barrymore, though Timothy Olyphant is the real standout. Who knew he had such a gift for comedy?
Anyway, if Netflix keeps doing shows as entertaining as this, it’ll make the subscription worth keeping.
In this house we’re probably the only people who haven’t seen Stranger Things among all the world's Netflix subscribers, but the issue discussed here is one that’s been a thing a lot longer. And it’s a problem with story-arc shows in general, when the main narrative thrust is too slow-burn to let the individual episodes stand alone. #link