As expected due to work, February was a drastic step back in terms of movie quantity to me. 13 new films seen, compared to January’s 42. Such is life. This month offered an even mix of the good and the bad.
Videocracy (Erik Gandini, 2009)
What happens to a country when its president owns 90% of its TV channels? Videocracy takes a look at Italy during media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as its leader, where TV is – seemingly – all lurid junk and everyone’s obsessed with celebrity. The depiction of Italian television prompts quite a few eyebrow-raising “Is this for real?” reactions in the early goings, but beyond the surface level, there really isn’t much to this documentary. Why not explain how Berlusconi could rise to power? Is there really no alternative to what he’s offering? The film grows less and less focused as it goes on, and there’s no real attempt at analyzing anything. This subject deserves a better film.
The Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
I love musicals, but this was some pretty dull stuff. Some of the tunes are good, but there’s little emotion in the singing – or in the acting, for that matter. Gerard Butler in particular is an ill fit to play the Phantom, not managing to inject him with either danger or magnetism. The plot just goes on and on and on, and by the end of it, I had completely stopped caring. Nice sets, though.
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Sometimes I hate writing these mini-reviews for comedies, because it feels like there’s not that much to say other than “it was funny” or “it was not that funny”. Well, this one was funny. Really damn funny. There’s also the much mentioned novelty factor of having a raunchy comedy like this centering around women, so that’s cool too. What really helps to push this one up to greatness levels is the emotional resonance it has regarding friendship, envy, adulthood, relationships and more. Tremendous. Kristen Wiig rules.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
Certain movies you just keep hearing so much about that you start drawing incorrect conclusions about them. I actually expected to dislike this film. I had gotten the idea in my head that this was some dreadfully slow incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. Which it isn’t. It’s a fascinating story, a true showcase of special effects and audio magic, and an experience quite of its own nature. I won’t pretend to entirely understand the meaning of the ending, but I believe it was Ingmar Bergman who said of his films that he didn’t care if you understood them, as long as they made you feel something. That definitely goes for this one. I wish I can see it on the big screen someday. That must be a trip.
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Another good Hitchcock thriller. I’ve come to expect no less from him. I enjoyed the humor in this one, as well as the overt chemistry between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. That finale is quite masterful, too.
Ip Man 2 (Wilson Yip, 2010)
A worthy follow-up to the first Ip Man film. The fight scenes are as cool and crisp as ever, Donnie Yen in the lead is still immensely likeable, and the story is solid indeed. The climactic fight is pretty great, thanks to a novel premise and a bad guy who you just long to see get his comeupance. This one’s an easy thumbs up.
Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)
There’s some interesting notions going on in this film about the deterioration of civilized manners when man is under duress. The humor works for the most part too, but the story is ultimately a bit thin, and the pacing is uneven. I’d say all things considered, this is a good movie, but my least favorite Hitchcock so far.
Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)
It would be so very easy to dismiss the actions of the characters in this film as unbelievable, if not for the fact that this really did happen. Multiple times. With the film being, from what I’ve gathered, a very faithful recreation of one case of it. Mind-blowing, and crucial for the whole film to not buckle and collapse under the weight of the whole thing. There’s little wrong with the execution, and it’s a very compelling watch.
Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)
“It could have been better” sounds like a negative thing to say about a film. I don’t think it necessarily is. Some mediocre movies are just as good as they could have ever hoped to be. There’s nothing there to make you think they could have been great. Time travel movie Safety Not Guaranteed, however, could definitely have been better. This is, in a way, a good thing, because it means there are great ideas and talent present here. If it had just been tighter and more focused thematically. If the sub-plot with Jake Johnson‘s asshole character had felt more relevant to the main story. If the tone of comedy had been more consistent throughout. If all these things had been, this could have been great. As it is, it’ll have to settle for good. It did make me want to learn to play the zither, though.
Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2012)
A clever script and some thoughtfulness go a long way. An interesting and funny take on the idea of the perfect mate. Between this one and Little Miss Sunshine, it seems like Dayton and Faris are the ones who truly know how to get the best out of Paul Dano. He was great in LMS, and he’s great here too.
The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Cool little slow-burn horror film that emulates the look and feel of the genre of the 70s and 80s. The atmosphere and scares are mostly effective, but the climax can only be described as a letdown.
Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter (Fredrik Boklund, 2008)
A film about an incompetent reporter (Anders Jansson) who finds himself in the thick of a revolution in a north African country. This movie is a prime example of everything that’s wrong with Swedish comedy. Predictable jokes, one-dimensional characters, moronic plot, and not the tiniest hint of energy or an edge anywhere. Terrible.
Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)
Not my pick for Best Picture of the year, but a fine movie it was nonetheless. It’s a fascinating story, and the tension is ramped up very effectively as it builds to its climax. While I prefer Gone Baby Gone and The Town, this is yet another impressive directorial effort by Ben Affleck, who seemingly can do no wrong these days.