Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The illusion of effortlessness requires a great effort indeed.

Conversations with Other Women (2005)

It's been interesting looking back at some of my old reviews. There a fair few for films that I barely recall watching. Here's one, enjoy.

It seems to be very much the cliche new york indie film, involving what amounts to two people talking for two hours.
How much you get out of it will probably depend on how much you like Aaron Eckart and Helena Bonham Carter.
Brilliantly performed (with a funny but unnessecary cameo from Reno 911's Thomas Lennon) and filmed in handheld, close up, the film knows it is too slight to play it straight. So the whole thing is done in a split screen. It gives the rather talky, stagey piece an ability to be telling flashback stories and showing them at the same time that is more interesting than the standard voice over but rarely exciting.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Oh, I believe, sister. That's why I'm down here.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Fun but little is actually amazing and it too often falls into lame sight gags (especially focussing on Shia's crotch).
Despite whipping the plot along at a fair old pace the action feels a little stilted and ideas go undeveloped (nice to see a movie acknowledge the HUAC era affected academics but it serves little point in the film).
Cate Blanchett manages to make something special of her underwritten role, with a character who is supposed to know everything but after meeting Indy knows nothing and the 'little lost girl' faces that we get from her are far more telling than anything the script delivers.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Project parabolic course to avoid entering Neutral Zone.

Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

Another dive into the myspace stuff. Enjoy.

Last night I decided to give Star trek 2 another go. Hadn't watched it in years. For a bit of my own personal amusement I decided to do live twitter updates of my thoughts (which possibly irritated my twitter followers - yep all nine of them, so i may not do that again) and now i present them to you my blog readers. All 3 of you.

* Giving Star Trek 2 another chance tonight. How can i be so mean to a movie that gave us 'Khaaaaan!'
 They all look so old and this was only the second movie. Also, completely forgotten kirstie alley was in this
 Wow, their sideburns are amazing. They're so sharp you could cut blocks of wood on them.
 15 mins in and we have had a 'dammit jim!' a beam effect and already a seemingly endless spluge of techno gibberish.
 Khan is apparently a product of late 20th century genetic engineering. And it would seem, early eighties fashion.
 Ooh in the future even whistles are electronic.
 This is soooo dull. Kirk and Spock have just spent forever talking in circles. Blow some shit up already.
 alright Horner's score is kicking in to overdrive, something interesting must be about to happen.
 Klingon proverb? Klingon! Did our super intelligent genetic freak not get programmed with what Spain was.
 It briefly got exciting due to Kirk being an idiot but has lapsed into tedium again.
 Ah ha there it is. one hour ten in. Khaaaaaan!!!!
 lots of people are running around corridors, something important must be going on
 Vulcan death grip and one billionth use of the word 'logic' Just as well i don't drink.
 'from hell's heart i stab at thee' someone kill this pretentious douchenozzle already.
 So yeah. Wrath of Khan sucks. Still it's better than the fourth one.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

You let me sleep because you can't bear to have breakfast with me

The Reader (2008)

I'm going to re-use some of my reviews from my Myspace days especially if I'm running a little late or just a bit dopey and can't be arsed to put much thought into it. But also I enjoy some of the stuff I've written and want it on here.
More or less chose this at random. I liked the line about sex (tee hee).

Very formally shot, rather rigid Oscar bait. Kate Winslet is quite stunning but the film never really gels as a character piece and has little to say of interest about the history it is dealing with.
A major plot point hinges on a secret that one character finds so shameful they would rather be thought a murderous Nazi than reveal (and despite how obvious it is the film feels it nessecary to flashback to the oh so heavy handed 'clues' it gave us) and it comes across as a bit daft really.
As it is a serious Kate Winslet drama, there is oodles of sex.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I let my haters be my motivators

The Sitter

Faintly amusing way to pass the time I guess. 
It has an ill thought out and lacksadaisical approach to consequences (an untrained idiot tells a child not to take his medication and this is seen as a good thing) and mostly skirts by with some toilet humour (literally) and a personable cast.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Negotiations broke down.

Haywire (2011)
A fun, fast well cast vehicle for a non-actor but an interesting performer.
Gina Carano holds a commanding presence especially when dealing out the damage the script has been specifically tailored for. She is terse, strong and not much more as an actor but i hope she is given material as strong as this in the future rather than sub par Cynthia Rothrock fare.
A succession of splendid actors are paraded out to be beaten up or deal exposition (the film is almost as interested in the minutiae and politics of hiring mercenaries as in the end result) all tied together with a terrific David Holmes score (that knows exactly when to be silent).

Monday, 23 January 2012

We're not bad people. We just come from a bad place.

Shame (2011)

A somewhat compelling but ultimately hollow experience which is perhaps a deliberate mirror of the way the main character feels about sex. However the film is not quite tight enough, the script not quite sharp enough to bring the viewer to care.
The performances help, a great deal, as does the generally wonderful photography and good use of music.
A near miss, but an interesting one.

Friday, 20 January 2012

According to this, you're already dead.

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

A few quick words from me and then something a little different today because it tickled me.
I find the love for this movie baffling. A contrived, rather dull exercise in plot twistery. 
It has a pretty interesting cast but is too long, and silly when not boring.

However whilst on IMDB for a quote I came across this gem of a review from registered user uds3:
My favourite part I will quote here:

To those who view the ending as "rushed," "unsatisfying," "obscure" even "dumb" as I recall, I would merely suggest you watch it again and take into account the likelihood is, that it is in fact YOU that has missed what has been so cleverly set out for you. SIGNS was equally misunderstood by the majority of people that even liked it - there never WERE any aliens!

Brilliant. His review of Signs makes about as much sense as Jacob's Ladder does, check it out.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

You gonna write us a happy ending, Heather?

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

It's lost a little of it's power but is still an effective pretty terrific piece of film. Fun (it plays with expectations - a trip to the cemetery proves to be utterly mundane) and scary (the ending still packs an unsettling punch) with some decent performances and an interesting approach to how it was made.
By no means the first 'found footage' horror film but certainly the one that popularlised them in a way still seen now (especially with the success of the solid Paranormal Activity movies), it is aware of the dramatic license needed to buy into the premise and chucks a few lines in to sell the idea that anybody would keep the cameras rolling (I don't really buy into the idea things seem safer through the lens, it feels a writers conceit) but I also don't buy into a man jumping out of a window with only a firehose attached for safety - you just go with it.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

It's in Belgium

In Bruges (2008)

Another Mondo Re-Take that I could have cheated on if I still had access to my old blog. Oh well. This one is chosen by Tom Evans.
A terrific belter of a movie, funny, a little touching and impeccably acted.
Gleeson is, as ever, a pure delight to watch. Fiennes, who I can run a bit cold on at times is also top of his game here.
Great wit, neat sense of action, only slightly (very, very slightly) let down by a cutesy would be poetic ending that relies on the idea that dwarves can be mistook for children.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

And this is for Muffins!

The Spirit (2008)

I used to review all the films I saw at the cinema back on another blog a few years ago and am pretty sure I covered this one but that blog seems to not exist any more so I couldn't cheat and just copy/paste.
This suggestion comes from Andrew Jones and is a big reason I can't call these Film A Day entries 'Classics'. Re-Takes perhaps (I'm not sure why I even care about distinguishing between movies that are new to me or things I am covering that I have seen before but there we go).
I actually covered the teevee pilot attempt last year (back here) which was not particularly good but far, far, far better than Frank Miller's woefully tone deaf take.
Just about everything is misconcieved, The Spirit could be a fun throwaway book with some goofy humour but Miller has no awareness of how to build comic timing, how to have a groan inducing gag be endearing rather than stupefying.
The cast play it all as pantomine, and a terrible one at that (since it's across the board and some of these actors have given nuanced interesting performances in other things I can only assume they have been directed to be as broadly annoying as possible).
The comic had a great female supporting cast, that evenly allowing for the differing social norms of the time seem more progressive and rounded than the women presented here (it's hard to find anybody alluring when the film thinks photocopying someone's arse is sexy).
Horrid, horrid, horrid.

Monday, 16 January 2012

That's good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we'd never get anywhere.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The first of my Mondo Film A Day Classics (hmm that's a fine name for today but when it comes to The Spirit  that somebody else has suggested for this week it may need a rethink) chosen by someone else, in this case David Morson.
Smart, fun brilliantly played crime caper. All the cast are on fire but Sydney Greenstreet really impresses amongst some terrific character actors.
The script zings being delivered so ably and the film is well shot and pacy.
The full package and rightly well regarded 70 years on.

Friday, 13 January 2012


The Artist (2011)

Absolutely magical. Like last years Hugo in it's affection for early cinema but with a stronger through-line.
A wonderful character piece masterfully using a score and terrific acting to convey emotion and plot perfectly that the few dialogue cards you do get are almost superfluous.
Jean Dujardin manages a simultaneously hammy and yet subtle performance (the multiple takes of him doing a scene with an extra who will soon surpass his fame is simply wonderful). A number of interesting actors pepper the film (always great to see John Goodman) but never upstage the main stars.
Only January and this is the quality for other films to beat for the year.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Those aren't badgers!

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Another film I caught at the parents over the Christmas holiday.
A fairly solid enjoyable take on a book I vaguely remember loving as a child. This seems to up the 'epic' battle scenes for a more Lord of the Rings approach but is anchored by mostly ok kid actors and a terrific Tilda Swinton.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

One of those remakes like Let Me In that is very accomplished, in some ways more so than the original but also feels quite, quite pointless.
Craig and Mara are pretty damn terrific (Mara had the harder task as Noomi Rapace was really rather good herself) and the cast is full of interesting ringers (an unimportant character is played by Goran Visnjic for all of two minutes).
Most of it's problems remain ones the original had (and possibly the book too though I haven't read it). The plot is a little too silly to sustain this running time but Fincher once again proves adapt at keeping a lengthy piece moving and pacy.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

No one gives a toss about Charlton Heston

Bronson (2008)

I kind of ignored this when it came out. I heard it had some pretty good reviews and a lot of praise for Tom Hardy but it slipped me by.
Then, at the monthly film quiz held at the Quad cinema in Derby, a clip was shown and it was completely unlike how I had imagined. So much so I did not recognise what movie it was though one of my team-mates did. It looked like a film from the '70s. Something Ken Russell might make.
Now having caught up with it on film4 whilst at the parents over Christmas it really does fit that impression.
Stylish, off-beat, theatrical and with a terrific central performance (and with lot's of full frontal nudity so I believe the cliche term would be 'brave') it (along with Drive) marks Refn as a director I should be paying much more attention to (someone has lent me Valhalla Rising, I shall have to see about getting hold of the Pusher films).

Monday, 9 January 2012

Why am I Pluto? It's not even a planet anymore!

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

An interesting companion piece to Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Both eschew numbers in their titles and both waste someone from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In this case Michael Nyqvist is saddled with a horribly underwritten villain (he hates nuclear war so will start one - err ok?) with a couple of moments that suggest more (why the reveal with the mask?) but nothing is forthcoming.
That said the movie is pretty exciting. The action brisk and fun (though a slightly messy fight between Cruise and Nyqvist doesn't really work because it's hard to care).
Simon Pegg has a much extended role since the last film and makes the most of it, delivering the requisite comic relief but looking badass enough in a couple of points to pass as an IMF field agent.

Friday, 6 January 2012

That's not fair

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Much the same as the first one. It emphasizes Boys Own adventure stuff over actual detective work and feels more like a James Bond film than a Sherlock Homes one but is mostly pacy and fun.
Jared Harris is good as Moriarty, feeling a worthy foil and making for a good climax. Moran (much, much different to how I had just read of him in Kim Newman's excellent Moriarty short stories) gets the best line as the Holmes and Watson bits often fall to silly business with little genuine wit.
Noomi Rapace is horribly wasted, an interesting actress given nothing to do.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

We'll see who's powerless now!

Wall-E (2008)

Some may suggest that I am reaching in my last couple of days worth of entries. That rather frivolous assumptions are all well and good but don't actually represent what is happening on screen. And that's true. I am of course being rather tongue in cheek. 
But (apart from one stretch that I will own to you) today's reading is all from exactly what happens in the film.

Basically I believe the main star of Wall-E to be less as presented on the poster and more this:
It's Jeffrey Dahmer for those lucky enough not to know.

We initially see our 'hero' cannibalise others of his kind. I assume (though it's not particularly supported by the text) that he has in fact murdered the rest of the Wall-E units in order to survive this long by dismembering them, stripping them of vitals. It can't be just luck that has him being the only one left - we start after all that has happened but clearly see the cannibalism. It may be hard to argue a sexual charge from this act but this depraved loner is benefiting from a form of necrophilia.

When we finally see him interact with another person he is quite aggressive, not taking no for an answer and consistantly rebuked. This forces him to take rather drastic action and on offering her something that seems fairly benign she shuts down completely. 
So after drugging her, with the robotic form of a roofie, he continues a relationship that she can literally not say no to. That heart warming bit in the trailer where they hold hands? She's unconscious. Creepy as all hell.

Tomorrow: Bambi is Hitler.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

So you got an arrow right in your chest.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

I loved this film as a child. I had an E.T. bedspread and have vague recollections of watching a pirated copy and owning a vinyl record connected to it in some way.
I pretty much hate it now though.
A friend of mine has some weird fear of the alien itself, having nightmares of it eating her foot.
bad photoshop of what that could look like.
But today (continuing the trend set with Predator) we shall talk about the hidden meaning in E.T.
Little known fact but E.T. was remade as the Martin Clunes 1994 vehicle Staggered. The plot summary on IMDB of which is - 'Very much in love, Neil's wedding plans are sabotaged, beginning when he is abandoned, naked, on a Scottish island. A road trip ensues, with Neil encountering many obstacles as he makes his way to London for what he believes is to be his wedding day. Or is it?'.
E.T. is almost exactly the same. Left naked and almost certainly drunk or stoned (check out his examining the flower or his slurred and nigh incomprehensible speech) by his best man, he encounters many obstacles all in order to phone home, or at the very least a taxi that can get him to the church on time.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's in the treeeeees

Predator (1987)
The gun is not a gun.
The return of filmaday (with some new new rules but essentially same as before) and many of you will have heard me go on about this before but I feel it deserves a place here on my blog. 

A brief examination of the sexual politics of Predator.
The  1987 Science Fiction actioner is staple viewing. Endlessly quotable (Arnie's accent making it so much more fun), pacy and exciting. I watched this so many times on a version taped off the telly that when I finally bought it on video (yes, it was a while ago) found whole chunks had been missing (Carl Weathers arm being shot off still feels like a deleted extra to me).
What's interesting about Predator is just how scared it is of women. The whole thing is driven by the usual macho bullshit of course, guns being very obvious phallic analogues. Schwarzenegger asserts his place within the movies narrative by the film itself killing off anybody who could put claim to being more 'manly' (having a bigger gun).
The lone actual female is seen as of so little consequence the film can't even be arsed to kill her or indeed give her much to do (though of course the second, the very second, she picks up the artifact of male dominance it is swatted from her hands and she is barely seen from again).
One character reflects that he 'ain't got time to bleed' reinforcing an idea that men would not let things like menstrual cycles impact on them (though later he does have some time to bleed if only briefly and spectacularly).
The Predator itself represents Feminism. An invading force that tears apart the male power paradigm. It has an almost literal Vagina Dentata. To be defeated Arnie must shake off the shackles of femininity and to this end gives (re)birth to himself without the aid of woman/womb, coming out of the primordial mud which gives him the advantage he needs.
And the manner he crushes the threat? A giant phallus.
The Patriarchy is defended once again.

Monday, 2 January 2012

It's that time of year again.

2011: An Incomplete Odyssey.
Is this still done live? Such a daft decision.
For various reasons A Film A Day broke down late into last year. But at least a couple of people asked what happened to it so I am bringing it back. The way it works shall be slightly different but not by much. I still intend to have the rule that if you lend something to me I have not seen I have to watch it. But now am expanding this slightly so that if you have requests for 'reviews' (I hesitate to call them that) of any film I have already seen I will do so as long as not already covered by the blog. 
So the big rule that is changing is that the films no longer have to be ones I haven't seen before and will allow me to cover some old and new favourites if I so wish.
I imagine the write ups will still generally be very short and contain very little information but anybody reading this should be use to that by now.

Anyway here is a bunch of stuff I found interesting in the last year.

Top 5 of the Year (in no particular order)
Actually I normally do a top 5 but this year seemed especially good for film (there's a still a few I suspect could make this list but I didn't get around to seeing), so I shall do Top 10 instead

Bubbling under: Paul, Animal Kingdom, The Fighter, Rango, Melancholia, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, Win Win, Source Code, Super, Hugo, Arrietty, 

Bottom 5 of the Year (no order)
4. Just Go With it (can't find my entry for this so no link)

Most overrated by critics: not sure on this one (very easy choice last year) I didn't like Animal Kingdom or Hugo as much as some but still them a great deal.

Most overrated by fanboys: Sucker Punch, not just because I found it thematically repugnant but because it's action scenes are horrid.

The 'Borat' Award for best naked wrestling: The Skin I Live In (she's not so much naked as wearing a form fitting skin coloured suit but for the purposes of this it'll work dammit).

The 'Assault on Precinct 13' remake Award for best 'that was surprisingly decent' film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The 'I wish I had actually paid the extra to see this in 3D' Award: Hugo