So, April in cinema, then?
When I first came out of The Place Beyond the Pines, I was so angry. Angrier than I’ve been at a lot of films this year. Although a month since seeing it my anger has dimmed, I still find it one of the biggest cases of Emperor’s New Clothes I’ve seen in some time. A film starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper is promising, right? If nothing else, there’s some eye candy there. However, be warned, they don’t really appear together. Instead, this is a three-act film with their characters taking the first two acts. After an hour in Gosling’s character’s company – by far the best part of the film – the narrative switch to Cooper’s is a bit audacious. It might have worked were the storyline for Cooper’s character in any way interesting or novel (the Gosling section is quite watchable) but it’s so dull and derivative, and then, then, you think his storyline is ending and so the film is going to end, BUT NO. There is then a terrible third act, when you go ‘Oh no. They’re not going to go there‘. Oh yes, they do. I’m so sick of seeing films that make out white men’s problems are so important and SO UTTERLY DEEP. If this film were about black or Asian men, or women of any stripe, it would probably not have been made and it certainly wouldn’t have been a big release. The saddest thing is, it seems to think its very, very overdone message (I’d say what it is, but… spoilers) is somehow meaningful. A child’s paddling pool has more depth.
If you watch the DVD, save yourself from throwing things at the screen and pretend the film ends once Gosling’s character’s storyline ends. The rest of it is a complete waste of time.
Perhaps it was seeing it straight after the bore-fest above. Perhaps it was going in with very low expectations after reading some scathing reviews and not being that enamoured with Kids (amazing soundtrack aside) but I found Spring Breakers rather refreshing. We’ve already established my appreciation for the recent use of bold colours in cinema (of which, more to come) and this takes the colour pallette to the next level, with huge blasts of neon adding to the tripped-out feeling of a ‘spring break’ holiday that doesn’t quite go to plan. There are things that are problematic about this film – the lingering on young women’s breasts is rather gratuitous (men are gazed at too but not as much) – and at one point I thought ‘dude, that’s your daughter, you’re being gross’ before discovering Rachel Korine was actually Harmony Korine’s wife. Oops. The film has been criticised for being shallow – which it is, but no more so than anything else on this month’s list. It’s a bit repetitive in some of its motifs as well. However, it’s nice to see a film giving four young women something interesting to do for a change, and for the journeys of each character to be divergent enough that they don’t feel like a retread of other coming of age stories. It’s not going to change your life or revolutionise cinema but I found it quite exhilirating – if I’m going to watch random mindless violence then this hedonistic, beach-dwelling, neon-lit, female-fronted scenario is way more interesting than the gloomy-men-being-gloomy-in-container-yards likes of Welcome to the Punch. This film has a better storyline than that one as well.
You can’t really tell from the trailers, which make it out to be a fairly run-of-the-mill horror/thriller type film, but Dark Skies is one of the most out-and-out batshit crazy films you will see this year. It is utterly demented. The opening third or so sets it up as a fairly routine paranormal domestic type chiller. And then it goes mental. And then a bit more mental. It’s like four genres of schlocky B-movie had a crash. Not necessarily in a bad way although I’m not sure if it’s good, either. It doesn’t make a whole heap of sense, but it’s quite entertaining. I think? It’s one of the most bewildering, bizarre and bonkers films I’ve seen in a while. Not what I expected.
Oblivion is a weird one, too, albeit in a different way. Everything in this film you have seen in other films. The reveal (which you can see coming a mile away) is almost entirely ripped off from another sci-fi film that was released in the past decade – if I told you which, you’d know what the twist is, so I won’t. In fact everything in it is pinched from so many other films that it’s quite outrageous. And yet – it’s great-looking, it’s pacy, it’s got some surprises in it and I found it a really fun romp and enjoyable watch. Worth seeing as long as you don’t expect anything new.
Nobody could accuse Spring Breakers of being shallow when they stack it next to Iron Man 3. In some ways it’s a shame that the promise of Iron Man has never really been matched by anything in the sequels (assuming Avengers Assemble doesn’t count as a sequel because Tony Stark was ace in that). I think this one was a bit more entertaining than the second, but that could be due to seeing this at the pictures and that one on DVD. There are some nice set-pieces, a smattering of good jokes, some racially dubious bits with the villains and lots of SPLOSIONS. There’s also a gratuitous child, which I’m sure a lot of people won’t be happy with although I thought the kid wasn’t too bad as these things go. There’s nothing much else to say about this film – it’s a superhero film. It exists. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen much better.
All I knew about Bernie before seeing it was that it starred Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey (is he in EVERYTHING at the moment?). In some ways I’m glad I didn’t know too much about it as, like Compliance last month, it’s based on a true story, and knowing that story probably doesn’t diminish the viewing entirely but it would make it much less surprising. So I won’t tell you anything about the plot, but the format of the film features talking heads from real-life residents of the town where the events took place, interspersed with actors playing some of the roles. The three leads are totally brilliant, although I find a lot of the plaudits from the press towards Black incredibly patronising (all along the lines of ‘if Black can make a good film, the world must be ending’ and ‘who knew he could act?’). I’ve never had a problem with him – sure, he’s made some stinkers, and there was a while in the middle of his career when he was so ubiquitous he was annoying, but he’s made several films I enjoyed and I never thought he was particularly bad as an actor – besides, Bernie isn’t *that* much of a leap from his other characters. Anyway, some of the things that are played for laughs are a little uncomfortable given it’s a true story but it’s a quirky and enjoyable film and certainly worth trying out.
I’m So Excited, Pedro Almodovar’s latest, is another film where I don’t really know what to make of it. It’s a real romp, a comedy set on an aeroplane with a small ensemble cast, all of whom are great (don’t be fooled by the trailers, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas are just playing cameos here). The film is deliberately high-camp and daft, and that’s all well and good, but sometimes it’s just *too* dumb to be hilarious. At other times, it’s very funny indeed. And then there are two scenes of rape (they are not necessarily presented as being rape but they clearly are if you take rape as being sex without consent!) and these rapes (one of a man, one of a woman) are treated as a joke – and I’m really not sure you can get away with that – maybe in a film that is deliberately pushing boundaries to provoke, but I don’t think this is that kind of film, and it feels very uncomfortable. They’d both be classed as ‘good rape’ in Hollyoaks standards (this is a Lowculture circa 2006 joke, don’t worry if it passes you by) but, yeah, pretty gross. On the other hand, the alcoholic plane crew are at least more entertaining than Denzel Washington’s grumpy bugger in Flight. I’m not sure if I’d recommend this film – sans rape scenes, maybe, as the cast are so good – but those scenes left me feeling a bit too uneasy. Sometimes ‘genuis’ filmmakers maybe need someone with them to have a word in their ear…