Another two-month post? Guess I like watching films more than blogging about them… so perhaps I should aim for shorter commentary on them, especially as I was off work quite a bit this summer so watched a lot…
The Bling Ring was a weird one – the real life story was pretty interesting, but I felt the film never really explained or explored it in much depth, especially some of the relationships between the key characters that seemed intriguing. Maybe that’s the problem with trying to record something so recent where all the participants were so young. I did like the sparkle, it was an interesting meditation on celebrity (and human stupidity), and Emma Watson’s accent, not too bad in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was awful here. So, a very ho-hum 6/10 kind of film, which sets the tone for a lot of what’s coming.
Monsters University might edge closer to a 7/10 but Monsters, Inc was perhaps my favourite Pixar film so it had a lot to live up to. There’s a perfectly sweet coming-of-age/buddy film here, with some great new characters, but it’s wrapped up in some odd trimmings – the university life is so specifically American it seems a bit alienating given Pixar’s films have previously tried to be at least a bit universal in their appeal – and is university that appealing a concept to kids? Maybe Monsters High School would have been better if they really had to do a prequel. It wasn’t a bad watch, but as to the point of it, that’s a little harder to discern.
Now You See Me was quite surprising – OK, the ending is a bit hokey and they give us too much of an insight into what is ‘behind the curtain’ far too early (like a magic trick, keep your audience guessing) but it was pacey, spectacular in terms of some of its visuals and rather entertaining.
Pacific Rim was also entertaining in places, but it was a bit flawed in terms of story – and only THREE women got lines in the whole film. OK, one of those was a lead, but the other two had a total of three lines between them. There weren’t many women in the background, either. I liked the COOL ROBOTS SMASH scenes, but some people have complained that they’re shot in such a way you can’t always tell which robot is smashing which.
There’s something a bit queasy about the amount of films and TV in 2013 focussing on women being abused, tortured or murdered, and The Frozen Ground isn’t even the only example of those this month. John Cusack continues mining the seam of super-creepy weirdo (as in The Paperboy) to super-creepy effect. Nic Cage wasn’t that annoying. I don’t remember anything that spectacular about this film – other than it feeling kind of wrong when people left the cinema as the victims’ faces/memorials were shown before the credits, this being a true story.
As apocalyptic buddy comedies go, is The World’s End better than This is The End? I’d say the jury is very much out, but I think I’m edging towards siding with the Americans here. OK, this one felt more familiar, because it was British, and some of the jokes and observations were pretty neat, but there were too many issues with it. Firstly, the reveal came far too soon and then the film had nowhere else really to go. Secondly, the lack of women AGAIN. I know there was a female character who was OK but she was the sister of one and love interest of two others. Why do all films insist that friendship is a single-gender thing? TV is much better at replicting mixed-sex groups. PEOPLE ARE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE OF MULTIPLE GENDERS IN REAL LIFE. WHO THE HELL HANGS OUT JUST WITH PEOPLE OF THE SAME GENDER. UNLESS THEY ARE NINE. Stupid films. I’m so bloody sick of male buddy-buddy-ness. Also, the resolution was TERRIBLE. Totally had no idea that younger Gary was the last-but-one Peter Beale though. And a few nice cameos here and there were fun.
Frances Ha was a bit better in that regard in that she did have male AND female friends. I really liked it – wasn’t sure it needed to be in black and white, but it didn’t put me off too much either (perhaps b&w is a touch pretentious). Greta Gerwig was great and looked so much like someone I know in real life it was unnerving. Not much happened, but that was the point – I thought it portrayed the twenty-something meandering drift quite well and although some might find Frances annoying, I found her quite sympathetic. It could have become a bit too smug but there was enough warmth in it to just keep it on the right side. Lovely film, and the best of July’s bunch by some distance.
The Wolverine wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. For one thing, women have things to do! Like fighting! Hooray! And it was better than Wolverine: Origins. OK, it was too long and the twist too obvious and not a patch on the good X Men films, but it’s more a 5 or 6 than the 2 or 3 I was expecting.
August was a bit better for films than its predecessor, and started out strongly with The Heat. It was a straightforward buddy cop thing, but these can be fun (I liked the 21 Jump Street remake, for example) and whilst it shouldn’t be revolutionary for this genre to be represented by two female leads, it just is. Also: Sandra Bullock was a revelation to me. Girl can do comedy! I love Melissa McCarthy anyway, so I was perfectly satisfied with this. It’s nothing new, it could be funnier, but it was a decent romp and it’s just nice to have films where love doesn’t get in the way. Some of the male characters felt a little weak, although they just about redeemed this with one of the characters. One day, men and women might be represented as equal in a film, but if it happens in my lifetime, it will be a miracle.
I don’t know what to make of Only God Forgives. A friend of mine raved about it, seeing it as much cleverer than Drive, but I wasn’t entirely sold on Drive anyway. Its lighting is probably the best thing about it (same with Drive, actually), creating a really interesting disorienting vibe, but the plot wasn’t much to write home about. Kristin Scott Thomas was a revelation though, playing totally against type. Vithaya Pansringarm owned the film as the corrupt, sadistic cop with a karaoke penchant, and Gosling played his favourite type of hot brooding malcontent. I can see why people hate it, not quite so sure I can see why people love it, but I’m very much on the fence about it. Had some interesting moments, thought a bit too much of itself. Eh.
The first Red film was a surprise and I enjoyed it more than I ever would have expected. Red 2 is essentially soulless and predictable, but it at least wins points for having three women in the lead cast, all of whom get to kick arse, which is more than any of the Expendables films can boast, so as franchises about older people being action heroes go, it at least has something in its favour.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa must have been one of the most anticipated films of the year and I know several people have been disappointed. Having thought the trailers pretty poor, I was just relieved that it wasn’t as bad as they were, and it certainly has the edge over The World’s End. Some of it is funny, some poignant, some just too ridiculous. It sails a little close to the Raoul Moat saga in places but just refrains itself from fishing rod/chicken jokes, which is for the best. I liked it, but it doesn’t really stand up with the best of AP. And I swear Alan is lying about his age.
Kick Ass 2 is yet another hyped film that has disappointed people. The first film was really fun and inventive, but like many sequels, this just feels like it’s trying to live on old glories and failing. Indeed, a lot of it felt like a rehash of the plot from the first one. Jim Carrey was really good, despite his flailing about the whole thing. Some of the fights were pretty neat, but there was nothing particularly original here, and many of its points came straight from the big book of superhero film cliches. It’s a shame that something that tried to subvert the genre a bit has just become part of it.
The Conjuring has done really well and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very creepy little horror film, with a good cast and a ‘real life’ hook. It may not be original but it is entertaining and ticks all the relevant boxes. The title is kind of dumb and some of the reveals and climactic scenes are a bit far-fetched, but for a good two-thirds of its length, it does its job well and it’ll be no surprise if more films of its ilk come in its wake.
You can just imagine how Planes came to be. ‘We need another Cars film to sell more toys to boys’. ‘Pixar say a big fat no after everyone hated Cars 2. Besides, there are only so many Lightning McQueens anyone wants.’ ‘I know! Why not make Cars, but with PLANES. That way we can sell even more toys.’ ‘Excellent.’ It’s possibly a bit cynical to see this as a big cash-in in order to sell toys, but not as cynical as the people who made this big cash-in in order to sell toys. I have never seen a straight to DVD Disney film, but I imagine this is what they’re like – look like the previous film, but a bit crappier, with a similar, yet worse, storyline. There are some good bits here: it looks nice, it has three female characters and they’re not all love interests, one of the characters has an interesting back story, it’s very short. But the first third is really, really bad (planes racing is much more boring than cars racing – fortunately they leave the track after this) and the whole thing is very predictable. But it will sell toys, which is all that counts, right?
We’re the Millers is also pretty predictable but it’s a fun variation on the road movie, and Jennifer Aniston is really good in it – in fact, all the leads are really likeable, which helps, because in other hands, it could be terrible. It’s not exactly a revolution in cinema but it’s perfectly decent summer fare.
Jurassic Park on the IMAX! In 3D! What’s not to love? Well, the 3D, because 3D is almost always pointless, and this proves no exception, but it looks great up on the IMAX screen, and whilst some of the effects (and all of the computers) have dated quite a bit, even the shonkiest of effects looks better than the polystyrene rocks in The Hobbit. It’s easy to see why this became the biggest film of all time on its release (I remember it had crazy amounts of merchandise and it was a real phenomenon at the time) – and it’s interesting that it was superceded by Titanic and then by Avatar, when all three are basically films that say people fucking with nature = disaster. Truly, a universal message for our times. All the set pieces look great, but there was a lot more to the story and characters than I remember. And what a TOTAL SHITBAG Richard Attenborough’s character is. By the way, I’ve seen both sequels and remember precisely nothing about either of them. Some (arguably most) films really should be one-offs.
Lovelace has been sold on the premise that it’s a film where you see two versions of the story, with a flip in perspective half way through to turn events on their head. This… isn’t really what happens. We start with the story of how Linda grows up, meets her husband and makes Deep Throat and then it flips to a scene where she is recounting her story to a lie detector – but we don’t rejoin the story at the start, we restart from her wedding and we continue far past the Deep Throat story. Even the scenes that are in both ‘bits’ of the film are not really two tellings of the same story from different perspectives, it’s just that some scenes in the second telling aren’t in the first. Given the first telling of the story is not presented as being one character’s version, or even ‘neutral’ (as if there is such a thing) and Linda is shown as being sometimes uncomfortable in the first half, meaning there is no shock value whatsoever when we see the extra content, nothing artistically is gained from structuring the film this way. To have combined all the scenes into one narrative and made clear it was Linda’s version of the story (bipoics are never neutral anyway) would have sufficed and made a tighter film as a result – although I would have also liked some retelling of what happens in the missing years of the film. Peter Saarsgard and Amanda Seyfried are great as the protagonists, as is Sharon Stone as her mother, and the scenery looks great. Given Lovelace’s famous anti-porn campaigning, I was expecting it to be all YUK, PRON, but it portrays some of the people in the industry favourably, and the second half of the story is much more critical of Linda’s husband than the filmmaking itself. It’s also rather sanitised in how it is depicted (most things are in the dialogue not the visuals) so is unlikely to offend either the pro- or anti- porn camps in that regard. As biopics go, this has nothing on Behind the Candelabra. It needed much better direction, scriptwriting and editing. Disappointing.