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Monthly Report: January + February 2014

Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)
A movie about the last days of Hitler’s life, as well as the people around him at the time, is a good idea, and this one is blessed by some strong performances, particularly from Bruno Ganz and Ulrich Matthes (playing Hitler and Goebbels respectively.) Unfortunately, this movie is still very much a drag to sit through, despite a couple of effective scenes towards the end. Not the best way to start the movie year of 2014.
2/5

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (Sebastián Silva, 2013)
It’s nice to see Michael Cera show off his range and break away from his old “awkward teen” schtick, even if it takes playing an insufferable jackass to do so. This turned out to be a peculiar film, featuring elements of road movies and drug trips, filtered through an indie sensibility. I may have dozed off a bit towards the end, but weirdly enough, I honestly believe that made the movie better. Not in a snarky “because I didn’t have to watch it” kind of way, but like it actually enhanced it somehow. I don’t know. I liked this film. It had some charm.
3/5

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The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)
A harrowing story that isn’t afraid to ask hard questions. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent in the lead as a man accused of child molesting, but the rest of the cast provide ample support. Even better than Vinterberg’s great 90s effort The Celebration, and the first outstanding movie I’ve seen this year.
5/5

Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
With a peculiar premise like this – a guy falls in love with his computer operating system – it really is to the film’s credit how deftly it makes me buy it all. It’s an earnest film that touches on great thoughts and ideas, and it’s presented remarkably well; everything from the cinematography to the intriguing near-future production design to the acting is impressive. Something is nagging at me and keeping me from giving it the top score, though. I’m not sure what it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it might disappear with time. I get the feeling this movie is going to stick with me for a while.
4/5

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
Dark thriller that reminded me of both The Silence of the Lambs and Seven as I watched it. Strong performances, beautifully shot, and with a totally engrossing story.
4/5

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Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)
The story is just kind of there, doing enough to keep the movie going but not being anything particularly noteworthy. This is a film where the acting is the highlight. Cate Blanchett puts in a wonderfully realized turn as a woman in breakdown mode. It’s a real powerhouse performance. Supporting players Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay and others are also memorable. Fun characters, but Woody Allen can do better than this.
3/5

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
Excellent performances that serve the heartfelt – if familiar – story perfectly well. There’s also quite a bit of cool soundwork going on here, and the final scene probably ranks among the year’s finest. 12 Years a Slave is not quite the kind of spellbinding film that McQueen’s previous movie Shame was, as here he settles for more conventional storytelling, but perhaps proving himself as a highly competent storyteller is the right way for him to go at this point.
4/5

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, 2013)
Plays kind of like a Pi by way of Christopher Guest, only neither interesting nor funny. This is a movie about nothing.
1/5

Total # of new films seen: 8
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the months: The Hunt
Worst film of the months: Computer Chess

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Posted by on 28 February, 2014 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: May + June 2013

I didn’t do a Monthly Report last month. The reason why is that the number of new movies I saw in May was a less-than-impressive 1, and making a blog post on just that seemed silly. Fortunately, June proved a bit more fruitful. My movie interest is perking up again, it would seem. It’s just a shame that these two months didn’t have more really great films to offer than they did, but what can you do.

Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 1997)
Solid thriller, albeit with no real stand-out quality. Nothing worth going out of your way to check out.
3/5

Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)
Zzzzzzzzz…
1/5

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End of Watch (David Ayer, 2012)
The story is barely there. Just two cops doing their thing, presented partially found footage style that adds little to the proceedings. What makes the movie work is the convincing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, as well as the many brief yet poignant insights into what it’s like to be a police. The movie manages to take familiar situations and tropes and show them in a way that make the implications of them really sink in for the first time. If that makes sense. This one’s worth checking out.
4/5

Kung Fu Dunk (Yen-ping Chu, 2008)
I was hoping for something similar to Shaolin Soccer. This one kind of was, only not as good. One problem was that the martial arts stuff felt shoehorned in and not played to full comedic effect. Even worse was the way too mushy and overly long ending. The early goings of the film did offer some giggles, but not enough to outweigh the bad.
2/5

Descent (Talia Lugacy, 2007)
Not to be confused with spelunking horror film The Descent. This is one of those movies that’s more interesting to think about afterwards than it is to actually watch. In its effort to keep the effects of rape “real”, it internalizes everything to too high a degree. The result is a viewing experience that keeps the viewer at too much of a distance. There are some interesting directorial choices here, and Rosario Dawson‘s performance is a strong one – that her character’s motives are kept somewhat in the dark seems to be the director’s choice – but once you realize what the movie is going for, you realize that it’s not enough to sustain its running time.
2/5

For a Good Time, Call… (Jamie Travis, 2012)
Not all chick flicks are bad. This one kind of is though, or at the very least “meh.” It’s generally a bad sign that when the end credits start rolling, you realize that nothing has really happened. Nothing has changed, there has been no real character growth, and there have been no laughs either – although some of the cameos are smirk-worthy. This film is also proof that dirty language alone is not enough to spice up a film.
2/5

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Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010)
A movie very much about its story. It’s full of intrigue and is told well – dual timelines can be tricky, but are pulled off without a hitch here – and I found myself more and more hooked as it went along. Sprinkled in are scenes of stark emotions and shocking violence, almost like interpunctuation. Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a tale with plenty of unexpected turns.
4/5

Hit and Run (David Palmer & Dax Shepard, 2012)
I really liked the dialogue here. The conversations and arguements, particularly the ones between Shepard and Kristen Bell – fiances in real life – had a way of drifting from the personal to the general that I dug like hell. Like, they’d start talking about who’s right, then it becomes about what’s right, then they take themselves out of it completely and try to see everything from the outside looking in. It’s hard to describe properly, but it stood out to me as something movies rarely do. The fact that it’s the same kind of conversations I often end up in myself might have something to do with my fondness for it here. Anyway, the rest of the film was cool too, with a story that hasn’t been done to death and fun characters. Could have done with tighter action scenes, perhaps.
4/5

The Dictator (Larry Charles, 2012)
Nowhere near as good as Borat or Bruno. Felt more like an excuse for Sacha Baron Cohen to try out a new accent for 80 minutes. I did like the helicopter scene and the climax, though.
2/5

A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
I’m not convinced the movie need to go on for as long as it did; the ending did drag a bit. Overall, though, this was a fascinating story, helped along by two great performances by Russell Crowe (never better) and Jennifer Connelly.
4/5

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
This was fine. The acting is decent enough – I was particularly impressed by Andrew Garfield – and the story is a cool and unique one. I would highly recommend reading the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro instead, though. That one is superb.
3/5

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Kiss Me (Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2011)
Not as good as that other Swedish movie about lesbians, but still fairly decent. As much of an infidelity drama as a gay romance, this one struggles a bit with an occasionally flat story – remove the homosexuality and marvel at how humdrum the whole thing would seem – but the two leads (Ruth Vega Fernandez and Liv Mjönes) have good enough chemistry and put in strong enough performances to carry the film to a passing grade.
3/5

eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)
I don’t get it.
2/5

Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011)
Just four talented actors doing what they do best, with Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in particular providing stand-out turns. The end felt a bit abrupt, but then it always seemed to be headed that way, so it’s not a huge drawback.
4/5

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, 2012)
Cool and clever film through which I was never sure what was going to happen next. Strong cast too. After In Bruges and this one, McDonagh is certainly a director to keep a close eye on.
4/5

The Campaign (Jay Roach, 2012)
Not the most subtle of satires I’ve seen, to say the least. There are some funny scenes here and there, but a lot of the humor just feels forced and hamfisted. I’m a fan of both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, but neither manages to do much with what they’re given here. The ending is really damn weak, too.
2/5

Total # of new films seen: 16
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the months: Seven Psychopaths
Worst film of the months: Cosmopolis

 
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Posted by on 1 July, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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