Monthly Report: November 2012

01 Dec

Color me shocked that I almost tied last month’s movie tally this month. October felt very movie-heavy. November, by comparison, just kind of drifted by, but I apparently watched a lot of stuff regardless. Not that I’m complaining. I got some good watching done, knocking off a couple more from my 2011 Must-See list, as well as some classics that I should have watched a long time ago. Yeah, November was a good month indeed.

Neds (Peter Mullan, 2010)
Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, Neds follows a boy during his growing-up phase, from promising smart kid to trouble-making delinquent. The transition is presented in an engaging fashion and, for the most part, shows a believable trajectory. Some well-timed humor makes for a welcome addition in the early goings as well. The problem is that it all gets a repetitive, with the second half of the film treading water rather than breaking new ground. Some more time could have been spent fine-tuning it in the cutting room. It’s a slightly better film than Mullan’s previous effort The Magdalene Sisters, though.

Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
Hard-hitting character study of one rotten L.A. cop, expertly portrayed by a rarely-better Woody Harrelson. He and Oren Moverman make for one hell of a team, judging by this and their previous collaboration The Messenger. Moverman does great work here, utilizing colors and camera angles in striking ways that really make the film come alive. And this is only his second film. I’m eagerly anticipating what he’ll come up with next.


Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
I’m a major fan of Jason Reitman. That Young Adult is probably his weakest film to date has more to do with the awesomeness of Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, than with any supposed lack of quality in this latest effort. Because Young Adult is really good. It’s a brisk and fun look at an interesting woman – Charlize Theron‘s Mavis – who’s possibly be the best-written character Diablo Cody has provided cinema with. The film might not tell a story we haven’t heard before, and it could have done with a bit more narrative muscle, but, in the end, this is Jason Reitman. And Jason Reitman makes damn fine films.

Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988)
One of the problems with relying on special effects is that your film will age without much grace. Beetlejuice is full of visual tricks of all kinds, and while the ideas do contain imagination, the execution of them naturally aren’t impressive these days. This could be excused if the effects were actually used for a specific purpose, like to scare us or make us laugh, but here they don’t really have anything to do other than to fill us with awe, which they don’t do. Of course, effects aren’t the whole movie, so why do I talk so much about them? Because they’re constantly pushed to the forefront of the film, stealing attention away from what starts out as a semi-promising story. Sadly, this fails to hold up. My experience with the title character encapsulates the whole film: I spent the first half of the film waiting for him to show up, and the other half wishing he’d stay away. To end this on a positive note: the Danny Elfman-penned score is a good one!

Mansome (Morgan Spurlock, 2012)
A large part of what made both Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold work was Morgan Spurlock himself. When in front of the camera, he has a great way of infusing his documentaries with energy, and this helps to make even straight-forward subject matters seem rich and compelling. So when he decides to largely keep the focus off of himself for Mansome, the result is lacking. It doesn’t help that the subject matter of male grooming itself feels trivial compared to his previous work, or that the comedy bits with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are forced and out-of-place.

Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)
Time travel/time loop movies are always fun. This one is no exception, with Jake Gyllenhaal clearly having some fun with his lead role. The drawn-out ending hurts the film, however, making it go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
Credit where credit is due: the transformation scene was awesome. Alas, nothing else in the film even comes close to it. This was, frankly, kind of dull.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (Woody Allen, 2001)
Probably the funniest Woody Allen film I’ve seen so far, though not necessarily the best one. The constant bickering between Allen and Helen Hunt is fun, and certainly the main attraction here. The plot itself is nothing too special.

Mister Foe (David Mackenzie, 2007)
Somewhat dark coming-of-age story that took its time to win me over. The protagonist (Jamie Bell) is one of those characters that doesn’t really have many positive qualities, instead being saddled with justifications for his negative traits. This creates a barrier between him and the viewer that doesn’t get fully conquered until the last third of the film. It’s solidly made, though, and the story travels to places many other tales don’t.

Rounders (John Dahl, 1998)
This was fine. Nothing exceptional or noteworthy – other than John Malkovich‘s fun hammy turn as a Russian baddie – but good enough entertainment for 2 hours.

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2011)
For the first half or so, this film felt very plain to me. Just a portrait of a guy in a small town in Texas. Even when he commits a serious crime, the story still feels like it’s just going through the motions. The interesting part happens after this, when he’s on trial. Here’s where the movie very effectively makes me question to what degree Bernie is actually “guilty”. It’s legality versus morality versus spirituality, all interwoven with interview segments of fellow townfolks and matter-of-factly courtroom scenes. It’s really good stuff, and the goodness lasts all up to the ending credits. However, here it’s stated that the film is based on a true story with real people, a fact that had slipped me by up until that point. When you base a narrative movie like this on real events, I feel like you need to have some degree of fairness in how you portray things. Looking up the case online afterwards, this one doesn’t seem to play it as fair as I would like it to. Your mileage may vary, of course. It’s an intriguing movie, in any case, and Jack Black has rarely been better. Check it out and form your own opinion.

Paprika (7)

Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)
If you enjoy subject matters such as those in Inception and The Cell, Paprika should be right up your alley. I do, so it was. A trippy journey through dreams and subconsciousness, nicely paced and with imagination to spare. Does it make sense? Probably not, but then dreams rarely do. Lovely animation, too.

Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012)

Bobby Fischer Against the World (Liz Garbus, 2011)
Well done documentary about the fascinating story that is Bobby Fischer. Chess genius extraordinaire, but also a very troubled man. The film shows both his rise to the top, as well as his descent into paranoia and other issues. Captivating. Recommended for anyone.

The Devil’s Advocate (Taylor Hackford, 1997)
I will definitely call this film enjoyable on average, but it’s certainly an uneven ride. The first half or so is a bit pedestrian, and the pacing is awkward, with some plot threads dragging and others needing more time to mature. The climax, however, is a highly memorable scene, perfectly suited to the story and delivered wonderfully. And then the very ending sucks. Through it all, the thing that always keeps the film above water is Al Pacino. There is not a second of the film where he’s on screen that you’re likely to be bored.

The Amateurs (Michael Traeger, 2005)
Movies about regular people trying to make a porno are not exactly common, but they’re still sort of “a thing”. I can think of three or four other ones I’ve seen in the genre. The Amateurs is neither the best nor the worst of the bunch. It’s awkwardly cut and relies way too much on voice-over – this might all the intentional, but who knows. There is a surprising amount of heart present, however, particularly in the way it shows the bonds between these small-town friends. The talent of the cast (Jeff Bridges, Joe Pantoliano, William Fichtner, John Hawkes, etc.) is too big to be fully utilized in a film like this, but they all put in satisfactory efforts. Ultimately, this might be a film I want to like more than I actually like it. But I do like it.

the matador 1

The Matador (Richard Shepard, 2005)
I’ve had a sneaking suspicion for quite some time that Pierce Brosnan, while not bad, is an actor incapable of greatness. After seeing The Matador, I’m happy to say that I was wrong. He is teriffic here, playing an assassin swaying back and forth between jovial friendliness and weariness. Greg Kinnear plays the straight man – always a thankless task – but still infuses his own character with enough life to make it rise above its station. The two actors have good chemistry with each other, and the dialogue is great – I was almost surprised to find out that it was neither based on a stageplay nor on an Elmore Leonard novel. The Matador is a deeply fun take on the hitman character, and I can find few negatives to bring up. A great movie, and one worthy of more love.

District 13: Ultimatum (Patrick Allesandrin, 2009)
District 13 was a bit of a fresh breeze in the action genre. It utilized parkour in a way that no other film has managed to pull off since. It had its share of problems though, and they are magnified in this sequel. Too much time is spent on a tired plot – one that feels like a retread of the original’s – and there really aren’t any characters anywhere. The action scenes are still cool for sure, but there’s not enough of them. A disappointing follow-up.

The Future (Miranda July, 2011)
Hey, speaking of disappointing follow-ups… I was a big fan of Miranda July’s debut feature Me and You and Everyone We Know. This sophomore effort feels like it’s trying too hard to do nothing at all. Or maybe to do too much. There is no substance beneath the quirk here, and even though I have a high treshold for quirk, this one went way too far. I don’t know. Maybe this is just a round-about way for me to say that I didn’t understand the film. That said, it was certainly different, so I’ll still be there to see what July cooks up next time.

The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926)
This would be my first Buster Keaton film ever. As a ha-ha comedy, it hasn’t aged all that well. I snickered once or twice, but it’s not that funny overall. It’s quite impressive filmmaking, however, with plenty of stunts and set pieces that made me go “whoa” or “how did they do that?”. The overall impression is thus a positive one. Somewhat. I’m more eager to see more Charlie Chaplin than Buster Keaton, though.


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
Funny, sharp, and clever comedy about war-related absurdities. Peter Sellers pulling triple duty offers quite a few laughs, but I liked George C. Scott‘s animated general the best. Still, it’s the material itself more than any particular performers that make this one a real winner.

The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson, 2008)
Why don’t people talk about this film more? Very entertaining con movie that kept me on my toes from start to finish, having me guessing how many layers there were to the plots through clever uses of red herrings and trickery in fair ways. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the humor is right up my alley too. All the main players are good here – although Rinko Kikuchi is a bit wasted – but Rachel Weisz steals the show in a way I didn’t expect from her.

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
It’s nice to finally be able to knock this one off of my List of Shame. Jaws mostly lived up to the hype. I dug the way it gradually ramps up the tension, and the entire second half of shark-hunting is teriffically thrilling stuff.

The Ten (David Wain, 2007)
The cast is filled with a bizarelly big amount of familiar names and faces. Bizarelly, because this is a pretty weak-natured anthology comedy, with little ambition and crude material. It’s not the kind of film you’d expect to attract much star power. Granted, a bit of it is retroactive recognition as some of the actors weren’t quite as big back then, but… Anyway, the problem here is that the various segments are only vaguely amusing on paper, and rarely manage to grow beyond their origins. “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny to have Winona Ryder‘s character fall in love with a ventriloquist’s dummy?” Yeah, this could make for a funny story, but they don’t do anything with it. Still, there are moments of mild amusement sprinkled throughout, so it’s not a total dud.

Mad Dog and Glory (John McNaughton, 1993)
Many people might rank Robert De Niro as the best actor in the world. I might rank Bill Murray as my favorite actor in the world. Both play against type here, with De Niro as a meek cop and Murray as a tough mafia boss. Of course, since this is De Niro and Murray, they both do great. The story is a good one, focusing on the cop’s wish to be more courageous and desirable, and I was fascinated for most of the film. The problem is the weak ending, which requires more insight into Murray’s character than what is provided. As it is, the scene just has me wondering why it plays out the way it does, requiring guessing and theorizing in an unsatisfactory way. Alas. Good movie overall, though.

angela-a 1

Angel-A (Luc Besson, 2005)
Some Things That I Like. #1: Paris in black & white. #2: Happening upon an actor I recognize from Amélie – here it’s Jamel Debouzze who played Lucien, the kind and bullied stall assistant. #3: When a director who I mostly know from other genres shows that he’s capable of branching out. #4: Visual symbolism that, while not subtle, still has me going “I wish I had thought of that!” – in particular, there’s a really cool scene in Angel-A where the shadows from a fence paints fishnet stockings on a woman’s legs, right after she has seduced a mob boss to help out the protagonist. So there’s quite a bit of stuff I like in this movie. The premise, of a man planning to leap from a bridge only to get interrupted by an angel (Rie Rasmussen) who seeks to make him appreciate life more, has of course been done before, but it works here thanks to some nice humor and the grander ideas it suggests. It’s not free from flaws, however. There are pacing issues, the two leads could have had better chemistry with one another, and for such a word-heavy movie, the dialogue rarely pops. Despite this, Angel-A is an interesting film, and one I’m glad I checked out even if I wasn’t blown away by it.

Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)
Huh. So here’s a time travel movie that A: seemingly makes sense according to its own rules, B: does so without being too complicated to follow, and C: still presents a very satisfying and unpredictable story. Imagine that. The plot does indeed drive the movie, and it has enough meat to it to make me want to see it again at some point. The film also looks great, which is always a plus. I can find little to complain about here. Good stuff.

Total # of new films seen: 27
Average score: 3.2 / 5
Best film of the month: The Matador
Worst film of the month: The Ten


Posted by on 1 December, 2012 in Monthly Report


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13 responses to “Monthly Report: November 2012

  1. Nostra

    1 December, 2012 at 22:18

    Impressive list of movies! Happy to see you also have enjoyed the Brothers Bloom, such an entertaining and quirky movie.

    • Emil

      1 December, 2012 at 23:41

      Yeah, It was quite delightful. I hope more people check it out now that Looper has raised Rian Johnson’s profile a bit.

  2. Movies - Noir

    2 December, 2012 at 16:20

    A nice mix for sure. I haven’t seen all of them, but I wanted to comment on some that you gave high marks to that I’ve seen.

    Rampart – Wasn’t Woody Harrelson excellent in this one?! I can’t understand how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his performance. I also liked the use of colors and some other details. Perhaps the mood was a bit ‘too’ moody (depressing), but the movie had something about it that I liked. I gave it 3½, mostly because of Woody!

    Young Adult – I was pretty dissapointed with this one. I haven’t really been all that impressed with Jason Reitman’s other efforts either (though Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air are pretty good), but this one was the worst yet to be honest. I couldn’t find anything to like about it, I’m sad to say. I ‘do’ like Charlize Theron a lot, but I also dislike Diablo Cody, haha. I guess in this case, the Diablo is in the character… I’m afraid it only got 2/5 from me.

    Rounders – Ok, you didn’t give it more than 3/5, but I actually liked this one more than I thought I would. I agree that John Malkovich is a lot of fun here, but I liked it from start to finish and actually gave it 4/5, even though it was a somewhat weak four.

    Ted – Yes, I also thought it was funny and worked pretty well. But I didn’t give it more than 3/5 as it lacked something out of the ordinary laugh-wise ;) Still, Ted the bear was a pretty good character.

    Bobby Fischer Against the World – Pretty interesting documentary, but not a four in my book. I gave it 3½ though and agree it’s worth a watch.

    The Matador – Haha, what a nice treat this was, wasn’t it? I also liked it and thought it was funny and good. Both Brosnan and Kinnear give good performances and I actually feel I’d like to see this one again now that you mentioned it and liked it so much, so thank you! I gave it 4/5.

    Dr. Strangelove – Mmm, Peter Sellers was true comic gold and shows it here in all three roles. His turn as the President is pretty cool as it’s so low key compared to the Dr. Strangelove part (which steals the show). But I also agree with you that George C. Scott is excellent, as always. I think I might be a bit kind towards this one as I have it as 5/5, but oh why not ;)

    The Brothers Bloom – I wasn’t too impressed with this one, even though it’s not a bad movie or anything. It just didn’t do much for me. 3/5, not more from my side.

    Jaws – Agreed, this one is a must-watch, but I wouldn’t give it more than 4/5 either. Still, it’s a classic for a good reason.

    Looper – I had high hopes for this one. There was a lot of hype around the film and I guess I expected more. I’ve seen it twice and even though I like it for the most part, there’s something missing. But I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. 3½ isn’t bad though, and neither is the movie.

    • Emil

      2 December, 2012 at 16:44

      From what I’ve heard, Rampart’s lack of Oscar attention was mainly due to the production company not having enough funds to stage a campaign for it. If voters don’t see the film, it’s hard for it to get nominated, unfortunately. Rough field that year in the category anyway. Even Fassbender failed to get in for Shame.

      Young Adult really didn’t feel like a DIablo Cody script to me. After winning her OScar for Juno, she went on to write Jennifer’s Body, which was really blatantly trying for the same kind of dialogue as Juno – and it was pretty bad. With Young Adult, she tried something a bit different. For me, it worked.

      I’m glad to hear you liked The Matador. That’s a really great movie that it seems a lot of people have missed. I don’t hear people talk about it very often.

      There were a few things I sort of “disliked” about Dr Strangelove that keeps it from my top score. For one, the ending is a bit weird. Also, the scenes in the airplane are somewhat weak compared to everything else. Still, it’s not like I hate any of these things. It’s just that I feel they could have been greater.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Movies - Noir

        3 December, 2012 at 16:22

        You’re absolutely right, and it’s a shame (no pun intended) that guys like Fassbender and Harrelson are overlooked due to the fact that Oscar voters don’t get to see the movies/performances.

        What I meant with the Young Adult comment was that perhaps Diablo Cody is in fact the character in the movie. That she wrote the part from her own life experience ;) Oh well, you can’t like them all.

        Yes, you’re right, The Matador isn’t really obscure, but it’s not often you hear people talk about it or that have even seen it. Brosnan is actually pretty good in the right roles, which he has proved a couple of times over the years. Btw, have you seen “The Hunting Party” (2007)? It’s by the same director and has the same kind of humor. Recommended since you liked The Matador.

        Mmm, I know what you mean. I don’t know if you’ve read about it, but according to what I’ve read, Peter Sellers was supposed to play a fourth character in the movie – the pilot on that plane. I guess that’s one of the reasons that part might lack something.

        • Emil

          3 December, 2012 at 16:28

          I haven’t seen The Hunting Party, no. I looked up what else Shepard had done after seeing this movie though, so it has been added to my watch list. I’m hoping it’s a good one.

          Yeah, I read that about Sellers. I also read that the cast in the airplane scenes weren’t told that they were making a comedy, which shows. Perhaps Kubrick wanted to show that despite the absurdities commited by the people in charge, war is always “real” to the soldiers on the battlegrounds.

  3. Travis McClain

    5 December, 2012 at 12:34

    Ugh. I just discovered why it’s felt like it’s been so long since I’ve seen anything on your blog. When I switched over to a different Gmail address, I apparently forgot to add your blog to my reading list! Whoops!

    Thankfully, though, we’ve chatted about the two big ones on this list already: Beetlejuice and The Matador. Just for the sake of posterity, I’ll offer an overview of the points I’ve tried to make.

    I think you got too hung up on the superficial stuff in Beetlejuice. There’s more substance than you give it credit, though I can understand why you were too distracted by the visuals to really get into it. Let it germinate for a while and come back to it in a year or so. It’s one of those movies where, at the end of your first viewing, it’s easy to shake your head and ask, “What the hell was that supposed to be?” Subsequent viewings, when you already know where it’s going, allow you to find the little things that are so easy to miss during the initial viewing.

    As regards The Matador, I’m thrilled that you’ve finally seen it – and that you enjoyed it! I think its entire box office take in 2006 was less than $2 million. It pleases me that I contributed to that take, but more than that, I’m thrilled that I got to see it on the big screen! It’s such an intimate story that it plays very well at home, too, but it was a lot of fun to watch for the first time in its natural environment.

    If you’ve not seen The Tailor of Panama, you may enjoy that one, too. Brosnan’s performance as Andy Oxnard there is something of the missing link between his James Bond and his Julian. I love both films for different reasons, but I think I favor The Matador for its freshness and the fearlessness of Brosnan’s performance.

    Last month, I checked out I Don’t Know How She Does It from the library entirely on the basis that it stars Brosnan and Kinnear and I so loved their chemistry in The Matador that I was eager to see them in a very different kind of film together. Alas, they have not one scene together in the entire thing. Brosnan’s charm helps carry some of it (it’s a lot of fun to watch him bowl), and the situations are worth exploring but ultimately the story settles for banalities and taking the easy way out instead of really pressing.

    • Emil

      5 December, 2012 at 14:28

      Ha! Well, I have slowed down my blogging pace in recent months, but I am still kicking around a bit. I’m glad you found your way back!

      I’ll take that into consideration regarding Beetlejuice, and might give it another go at a future date. This wasn’t strictly my first time seeing it, as there were some detaisl I recognized towards the end. Odds are I’ve caught it in progress on TV at some point in the distant past. I definitely remembered having seen the very end scene with Ryder hovering and dancing – a scene I found as awkward back then as I did now.

      I’m not checking, but I think you’ve recommended The Tailor of Panama to me in some earlier blog post of mine. It’s definitely on my rental queue. You comparing it to The Matador makes me all the mroe ager to check it out. I Don’t Know How She Does It, not so much…

      • Travis McClain

        5 December, 2012 at 14:43

        I’m confident you’ll enjoy The Tailor of Panama, especially in light of your reaction to The Matador. There are some people I know to whom I actually might recommend I Don’t Know How She Does It. You’re not one of them.

  4. sati

    9 December, 2012 at 16:44

    Glad you liked Looper, it’s definitely one of my favorite from this year, so far it’s in my top 3. Such a refreshing, well written science fiction.

    Young Adult is actually my favorite Reitman movie, I loved it upon first viewing and with each rewatch it actually became one of my all time favorites.

    I liked Ted and Rampart much less than you did, though they both had some great elements in them, the music in Rampart was really fantastic and Harrelson was amazing in it.

    • Emil

      9 December, 2012 at 20:55

      Yeah, Looper was really cool. I feel like I need a second viewing of it for it to grow further, but it was pretty damn impressive as it is.

      Young Adult is another one I could see improving for me on a second watch, but I’m guessing I love Reitman’s other movies too much for it to overtake any of them. What a superb filmmaker he is.

      I’ll have to make a mental note to pay attention to the score of Rampart next time I sit down with it. Music is one of those things I rarely notice specifically the first time I see a film. But yeah, Harrelson was teriffic, and definitely the strongest point of the film.

  5. Hannah M

    21 December, 2012 at 23:48

    I’m very pleased you liked Curse of the Jade Scorpion, as nobody else seems to. It’s one of my more guilty-pleasure Allen movies… I think it’s a horrible, ridiculous plot, but it’s so much fun to watch it unfold. It’s a nice throwback to his earlier, solely comedic movies. (I still think Take the Money and Run is one of the funniest movies ever.)

    • Emil

      22 December, 2012 at 09:09

      Yeah, the story was the biggest problem I had with the film, but I dug the dialogue and the look of the whole thing. I’ve seen worse Allen movies. I’ll have to check out Take the Money and Run at some point, it seems.


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