One of my films of the year so far, no monkey business.
One of my films of the year so far, no monkey business.
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…
Never mind the silly title: Edgar Wright’s new one is a real treat that deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Trying something a little different here, based on Khoi Vinh’s monthly movie diary roundups. Rather than clumping my Letterboxd reviews here at random, as I remember to reblog them, I’ll do a single post every month, starting with last month. Even less a couple I’ve already posted here, May 2017 was a busy one. More…
This animated short did the rounds a month ago so you’ve probably seen it already, but I like it so it’s here. [c/o io9]
Studio Ghibli’s first non-Japanese production, and a beautiful one it is too. Plus a few words on the latest entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
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.
Plus a few words on literal shaggy dog story A Dog’s Purpose.
Technically skilful and visually accomplished, with a great performance by the lead, but dubious themes indeed.
It does the remarkable job of making me want to watch his movies.
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!
Tim MacGabhann’s essay for Fallow Media on John Boorman’s 1967 noir Point Blank. Beware of spoilers if you haven’t seen the film (which I just watched for the first time tonight).
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.
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.)
The name rang a bell, indeed. Dwayne Johnson knows what side his bread is buttered on.
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.
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.
A review blog with a singular obsession: movies in which a helicopter explodes. I can get behind that. Then walk away while ignoring the explosion behind me.
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.
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.
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.
Opening tomorrow round these parts, this modern gothic horror is more something to admire from a technical standpoint than to love as a story in and of itself.
I wanted to highlight this amazing Chibi Freddy poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 from my previous link about Film on Paper. Wow, just wow.
A website highlighting the incredible art of alternate and international movie advertising. [c/o Plutonium Shores]
One of the more striking and convincing world-building elements of the film, and definitely something it realises better than the story it’s based on (which does the ‘meaning’ thing better, in contrast). See also: James Gleick muses on the film and the story that inspired it.
It’s bland, it’s pat, it’s sentimental — nothing like the extraordinary true story it sets out to re-tell.
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.
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.
Haven’t read this yet but I thought it worth saving.
Bittersweet but beguiling, this German comedy-but-not-really is worth its near three-hour running time.
This courtroom drama based on the libel action taken by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving takes too long to shake off the Hollywood tropes and get to the good stuff.
A humourless action slog for the World of Darkness set. A bit more fighting and a lot less blathering on about bloodlines and whatnot would’ve helped.
Fede Alvarez’s reboot of the Sam Raimi horror classic pretends to add depth with a thinly veiled subtext of demonic possession as metaphor for drug addiction, but it’s drowned out amid a witless torrent of wince-inducing gore — and a thoroughly nasty, cynical tone. I walked out on this halfway through when it first hit cinemas, and after catching up on Netflix I see I didn’t miss much.
Olympus Has Fallen comes with a certain charm to its ridiculous premise and theatrical violence. Only a trace of that tongue-in-cheek attitude is present in this cheap and nasty sequel, which takes its jingoism far too seriously. It’s also a film that constantly takes its audience for mugs, and can’t even be bothered to get Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in the same place on the same day. That’s pathetic.
This one's got her bullshit detector on the highest setting. She's great, she is.
You know what? The more I think about this one, the more I like it. Well, maybe 'like' is too strong a word, but you get my meaning.
Always interesting to compare my own habits with others. My stats for 2016 slipped a little, about 20 films short of what I watched the previous year. And I rate things differently. Few if any five-stars; a four-and-half from me is more like a five from someone else.
Here’s a diegetic twist on the found-footage horror where the meta-narrative is more than just a series of links between episodes, as a team of cops race against time to rescue a missing family from a masked assailant, following clues from digital cameras recovered at the crime scene, but uncover a mystery far more messed-up than anyone could have expected. Props to French film prodigy Nathan Ambrosioni (he’s only 17, the bastard!) for a decent attempt at the kind of genre blend that usually separates or scrambles. However, it’s still primarily a found-footage psycho slasher, set in a spooooky abandoned building, in the deep, dark woods — hitting the cliché trifecta — so your mileage may vary.
It’s hard to find a fair review of this one on Letterboxd; it’s all ‘this is shit/boring/etc’ with zero argument. That’s decidedly unfair to a remake that does quite a few things right.
OK so this one is my final film review of 2016. And it's a doozy.
So busy this week that I forgot to link this one when it went live on Tuesday evening. Despite what I said before, there might be one more film review from me before the year is out, if I can bring myself to write at length about Collateral Beauty.
Way too much overthinking here, since the function of the craft doesn’t factor into the story of the film whatsoever. But the fact that these things are thought about? That’s good. [c/o Pinboard/infovore]
Decent stuff on the writing process; writers are problem solvers, not just ‘creatives’. [c/o Pinboard/infovore]
They don’t have to suck, but when they’re overused, and at the expense of more creative audience manipulation, they’re a bright red flag. [c/o AV Club]
All the usual caveats apply, but this will be handy for checking things I’ve missed. Let alone all the film’s I’ve missed this year.