/ March 2020 film thread
A new month and a new recommendation: The Big Sick... romantic comedy isn't normally my genre but this film was a peach.... a delicate juicy delight.
Pretty sure this was a 9/10 for me, against all the odds (ostensibly unlikeable characters, rather formulaic actual story, slightly trite premise). So sharply written and wonderfully performed. Zoe Kazan can do very little wrong, of course!
Been catching up on films I've missed on C4'
'71 -soldier stuck in the wrong part of Belfast.
The Beast - thriller set on Jersey during a killing spree.
Both quite good, just starting a cop film called The Ghoul so I'm guessing it won't be a procedural.
I must make a point of seeing Beast (no "The"). Very strong cast. Thanks for the inadvertent reminder.
(NB I'd highly recommend "The Beast" aka "The Beast of War", a 1988 American film based on an American play, exploring the Soviet/Afghan conflict mostly from the confines of a stricken Soviet tank)
Just caught up with the sisters brothers,would recommend it 8/10
The Ghoul sounds weak!
I lost the plot after 20 mins. Might get back to it if I'm desperate.
> I lost the plot after 20 mins. Might get back to it if I'm desperate.
Good on you. I used to be a terrible masochist for seeing stuff through on the grounds that I’d made a decision to start it.
Further to my comment about zombie and vampire films limiting my choices, I would like to amend that short list by adding rom-coms, Marvel type films, Godzilla type films and anything involving American sport. And kids' films, obviously.
Dark Waters (2020)
"true-story-from-the-headlines" piece, about city lawyer taking on a crusade on behalf of The Working Man, against Big Industry.
A type of story that has been many times with different variants (A Civil Action, Erin Brockovich and countless precedents), and also seen as fictionalised versions (The China Syndrome), this one did not look promising, especially with that TERRIBLE title.
But Todd Haynes' involvement (especially with respect to his 1994-5 mainstream breakthrough "Safe", a fiction about a woman who basically becomes allergic to the 20th century), and a talented and interesting cast, piqued my interest.
And what a nice surprise. One of the very best of its genre.
Basically our "hotshot" lawyer (an very peculiar casting choice in Mark Ruffalo, of which more later) visits his childhood home, encounters a farm full of dying livestock, and helps the townspeople take on Dupont in a class-action regarding the dumping of pollutants, and cover-ups etc.
You're sort of supposed to know the ending, as the case was only closed fairly recently, and thus the film does not need to worry about being predictable - it is critic-proof in that regard, and it's to its benefit as it can get on with storytelling and painting rounded characters.
There's no doubt that this is old-fashioned film-making but that works well here, and Haynes keeps everything suitably dour and downbeat, with a muted colour palette, unflattering and realistic looks (even Anne Hathaway eschews "glamour"). The dialogue is cracking, as is the editing.
As I said regarding "1917", the fact that the score "intrudes" and "oppresses" works well here too, somehow.
Great ensemble cast - Ruffalo is fine (but, but, but....more on this later); for a while you do wonder why Hathaway took the "wife" role but she gets some chances to shine, notably toward the end. Great to see Tim Robbins in something good, it seems like it's been a LONG time. He's aged gracefully. And Victor Garber as the ostensible antagonist is a standout, but all the minor support players are also perfect.
And yeah alongside predictability you could even accuse bits of it of being a bit manipulative and cheesy, but honestly one of the "cheesy" bits made a tear well up in my left eye, and this is very very very rare. A film making me feel a real emotion. Well done Todd Haynes!
So, it is well well worth watching but I have to mention some niggles, like I always do.
The film mostly takes place in the late 1990s but does extend into the 00s and briefly into the 10s. And yet, despite having some computers and mobile phones, Haynes seems to want to make it look like his beloved 1950s (see: Far From Heaven, Carol, Mildred Piece)! The sets, the costuming and hair, if not 1950s seem to be wanting to appear "timeless". I have no idea what he's trying to gain with this aesthetic. It was just distracting.
And the Mark Ruffalo thing. This actor is in his early 50s. At the start of the film he has just been made a junior partner at his law film. The lawyer that he plays, Rob Billot, was 33 at this point. Ruffalo does not look 33. More like 45 at best. It's a distraction, especially when he visits his grandmother and she looks about 67. The distraction continues as the film goes on and you're wondering how old he's meant to be. It sounds minor, like I am fussing, but I think it matters. It is a shame because he is still excellent regardless.
A solid 8/10
Another DVD review, because this one is sort of hard to get hold of (or expensive on a Blu-Ray) but I always wanted it on a format other than my "taped off afternoon weekday C4 VHS". Bought on eBay in some rather unofficial looking packaging, paired for some reason with Yul Brynner and Max von Sydow oddity "The Ultimate Warrior", I was worried that it was just going to be a muddy VHS transfer onto DVD, but pleasingly, it looks fine to me.
Sands of the Kalahari, written (adapted) and directed by Cy Endfield.
First saw this somewhat forgotten mid-1960s flop about 9 years ago and was surprised at how bloody good it was. I may have mentioned it on here before.
Cy Endfield is best known for having made "Zulu" but he also made the excellent "blokes driving trucks of gravel around" film "Hell Drivers", and the fun Ray Harryhausen showcase "Mysterious Island". He is a very good director, keeping things taut and getting strong performances all the time.
In Sands of the Kalahari he is again in partnership with leading man Stanley Baker.
I think it is Endfield's best film but its failure marked the end of Baker's period as an influential figure in British cinema, and Endfield only made two more much more minor films after this before (iirc) inventing a five-button computer mouse that would do away with the need for keyboards, but he was 50 years ahead of his time!)
On the surface, a very simple plot and in fact something that would work well in the theatre (virtually single location, human drama mainly amongst 6 diverse characters).
A small plane crash-lands and burns up, in the Kalahari desert, inhospitable desert terrain miles from any help. 6 survivors (one pilot, an alcoholic oil worker, a German scientist, a doctor, an American hunter, and a young British woman) find some shelter with reasonable food and water sources and then wonder what to do - wait for help, or seek help.
Sounds a bit "seen it all before, cliche stuff, predictable", so far. It would be easy to expect cheesy flashbacks to the characters' home lives, and to expect a fairly standard delegation of roles, some minor squabbles about the plan, but overall group coalescence working toward a solution, with the leading lady just there as token eye candy.
Sands of the Kalahari doesn't do any of that. It is very bold in how it plays around with a shifting social dynamic. The minimal backstory given to the characters, means that for a while there isn't really anyone to root for, while the whole thing basically goes a bit "Lord of the Flies" but with grown-ups. It's a lot more interesting than its obvious comparison point Flight of the Phoenix.
It's hard to say much without giving away big spoilers so I'll just say that the entire cast is superb at playing these complex characters in a relatively complex human drama, and Susannah York has probably never done a better performance (and probably never looked more beautiful).
The final half hour (it is a 2 hour film) just starts to lull slightly as the pacing slows down, but there is brilliant reward in the unforgettable finale....
Very solid 9/10
I seem to recall some scary stuff with baboons
To be fair if you travel to small town USA you can sometimes think you have time-slipped back into the 1950s.
Dark Waters is set in late 1990s Cincinnati. Not small-town.
> I seem to recall some scary stuff with baboons
I deliberately didn't mention the baboons! But I don't know why
Couldn't resist pulling it up on You Tube. Excellent. They are seriously scary creatures, aren't they?
I must have dreamt the trailer clip where they have cows
Self isolating today, so I dipped into the pile of unwatched DVD's. It was a coin toss between Straightheads and Anvil. Straightheads won. Danny Dyer and Gillian Anderson in a violent rape revenge thing from 2007. Kinda reminiscent of 80's video nasty fare, but updated. Danny was quite good, not as full on 'Danny Dyer' as he is these days, he had some promise 13 years ago. Gillian was excellent. It took some unexpected turns, but in the end wasn't a very pleasant viewing experience.
I ended up watching Anvil too. It wasn't as advertised. Supposedly the true story of a brilliant heavy metal band from the 80's who didn't achieve their potential and inspired Spinal Tap. They weren't that good, it was an OK film.
Sex n Drugs n Rock n Roll, a film about Ian Dury, from 2010. Starts with the birth of his son Baxter, and the demise of his 1st band Kilburn and the High Roads, ends just after the furore around the release of Spasticus Autisticus. Great film with Dury played brilliantly by Andy Serkis, he moved like him, talked like him, even sang like him. The film wasn't a pure music biog, focusing more on Dury's personal life, very much 'warts n all'. He came across as a complex character, eccentric, with a big heart, but not a great person to be in a relationship with, and maybe not the best father. Quite theatrical, e.g. he's onstage talking and singing about his childhood in a cripples asylum and his younger self appears onstage at the top of a diving board. These aspects of the film reminded of Bronson with Tom Hardy. Definitely worth a watch, more so if you're of the generation and/or like Dury's music.
Irreversible, a 2002 film by Gaspar Noe, starring Monica Bellucci. Vincent Cassell and another guy whose name I forget. 95 minutes of my life I won't get back. Told over one night it's the story of a woman, her boyfriend and her ex, going together to a party. They argue, she leaves, she's raped, the boyfriend seeks (and gets) revenge. The story is told backwards, a bit like Memento, the Guy Pearce film. But that's where the similarity with Memento ends. There's philosophy, nudity, drug taking and strong violence yet somehow it manages to be rather boring. There's a practically unwatchable 1st sequence that's 10/15 minutes long where the camera angle constantly wheels around, not staying still for a second, that was incredibly irritating, I almost gave up. Then a long unpleasant section of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, then the horrific and brutal rape, then a long boring section, then it ends with more camera wheeling around, then a strobe effect to finish you off. I wish I'd followed my instincts and stopped watching during the chaotic 1st section.
I was given this film on DVD in 2006 or so, back when a DVD would still cost around £9 and I was skint so it was a "high value" gift for me, and the film was intriguingly controversial and polarising etc.
13.5 years later I still haven't reached that evening where, after the day's travails, I think "ooh I'll watch that Irreversible, that'll be alright tonight".
I enyoyed Irreversible, if you can use the word to decribe such an assault on your senses. And while I have been bored by many films, Irreversible isn't one of them.
> I deliberately didn't mention the baboons! But I don't know why
I don't know why you didn't mention Susannah York in her prime
> I don't know why you didn't mention Susannah York in her prime
Like this? "Susannah York has probably never done a better performance (and probably never looked more beautiful). "
She was probably better in "They Shoot Horses Don't They?"
Went to see the invisible man last night, really enjoyed it. Story is not what you’d think and not of the hammer house/kevin bacon versions of this story. Kept just about ‘believable’ in the ex-machina bracket.
There are holes in the plot sure but that’s the case for everything I guess. 7/10
> She was probably better in "They Shoot Horses Don't They?"
To my regret, I haven't seen that. I used to have it on VHS taped off the telly but some weird magnetic phenomenon at some point must have wiped off only the sound from that tape (it also had Polanski's "Bitter Moon" and one other film on).
Also, I've always found Sidney Pollack's films to take a strong cast and premise and turn it into an utter snooze-fest (just look at his track record! Three Days of the Condor, should be a great conspiracy thriller but it's really just 2 hours of Robert Redford hiding behind a sofa while Faye Dunaway brings him cereal!), so I've kind of stayed away from that one but I really should get around to it.
Saw it Sunday, pretty much agree; 6/10 for me but that is reluctant; Elisabeth Moss' performance alone deserves more, but in the end it was too flawed to score higher - funnily enough if it had played it more "silly" I might have papered over the cracks in the plot, but because it was playing serious and trying to be grounded, they all stood out more (no spoilers but just one example - who was looking after that dog?!). I did like how it held its nerve and kept things so ambiguous (is it all in her head) for so long.
I'll do a longer review later.
Yes, who was feeding poor zeus was what leaped out at me too and allowed me to guess the first big twist. Perhaps intentional to make the second twist harder hitting?
Thanks to the meerkat, it was the best £3 i’ve spent this year anyway
Son of the invisible man, you got to admit that he does look like his dad ;-)
> 13.5 years later I still haven't reached that evening where, after the day's travails, I think "ooh I'll watch that Irreversible, that'll be alright tonight".
It's certainly not casual viewing.
> I enyoyed Irreversible, if you can use the word to decribe such an assault on your senses. And while I have been bored by many films, Irreversible isn't one of them.
I definitely didn't 'enjoy' it. The concept was interesting, but yes, I found lots of it boring. The sequence at the start, I get it, it's deliberately chaotic, it fits the madness going on. But jeez it went on. Was the dialogue improvised? I thought it might have been coz there was so little of interest being said. This was a major part of it being a boring watch. Large parts of the film had the characters saying the same thing over and over. The taxi scene, the gay club scene (Rectum, really?), the scene where they're looking for Tenia with the hookers. The seemingly never ending metro journey where they talk about Alex and her orgasms went on and on and on, the same thing being said over and over. Even the scene where the two lovers are happy in bed was dull, devoid of any real emotion...And boring.
Kick-ass, 2010 film directed by Mathew Vaughn. A comic book adaptation about a superhero with no superpowers. A teenager obsessed by comic book superheroes in the real world where they don't exist, and pissed off by people turning a blind eye to the crime around them, decides to do something about it. He becomes Kickass! I'm a fan of the comics this film's based on, and I thought it did them justice. One big niggle though. I know movie adaptations change lots of stuff from the source material and that's fine, but the Big Daddy character was so different from the original it annoyed me. Quite graphic violence for a 15 certificate, but lots of fun, although that might depend on how you feel about an 11 year girl taking out bad guys in bloody killing sprees...
The Invisible Man (2020)
An offering from the "horror" movie studio Blumhouse which, despite varying quality of output, really does seem to know what it's doing and how to generate all sorts of flavour of b-movie.
This one is written and directed by Leigh Whannell who has strong credentials in the genre (Saw and Insidious franchises, and the neat little film "Upgrade") and it is clear that he is trying something a little more sophisticated here, although I wonder if there was some studio interference as there is typical "build up to a jump-scare" music when the film actually has the feel of something trying to go a bit better than a load of jump-scares.
It almost appears to have been written specifically for lead actress Elisabeth Moss, whose central performance really elevates the film. I think she is on camera for all but one short scene, in a 2 hour running time, and she is effective from the first moment - a cracking, near wordless, edgy opening scene that gives us some great exposition in a fine example of "show but don't tell", as she makes her escape from an oppressive relationship with an egotistical control freak (no spoiler there - this is what happens in the first 6 minutes and we see all we need to know).
From there, the premise (no spoilers, this is in the trailer etc) is that the aforementioned control freak is soon reported to be dead, but the traumatised Moss feels haunted by his presence whilst those around her assume she is simply in need of more time to get over her neuroses / traumatic memories of an abusive relationship. But is this presence actually real? Does her ex have some sort of invisibility cloak enabling him to sneak around and mess with her head? Or is it actually all in her head?
The film holds its nerve and plays with this ambiguity for an admirably long time, and it's kind of not so much horror, as a psychological thriller, mostly grounded in a believable reality.
And strangely it's that last point that lets it down. With relatively smart DIALOGUE, good cinematography and that central performance, it feels nice and mature but this is what makes the sort of plot holes that one might gloss over in a more "daft" film (like, say, Point Break), really stand out. Every time something pops up that doesn't quite fit into the more grounded narrative or the otherwise well-thought-out story, it's really jarring.
Again, I don't want to do any spoilers but here's a minor one to exemplify my point - a large house is supposed to have been deserted for a number of weeks, but the dog that lived in that house is seen in that house, alive and healthy and happy, weeks later. No explanation. You could argue that it is a clue, but if so, then that just means I picked a bad example. There are plenty of other mistakes that really make you think "this could so easily have been so much better if they just hadn't messed that little bit up"
So it's a reluctant 6/10. Reluctant because I'd like to score it higher, it was overall good, but just let down a bit too much.
I love a good jump scare.... on that... A Quiet Place was a seriously impressive horror/thriller /monster movie that I finally caught up with yesterday... really clever .... and I glossed over all the occasional inconsistencies
That bit with the nail.......!!!
> That bit with the nail.......!!!
I wrote in my review at the time of release, that A Quiet Place was rather unusual in that one of its apparent main two protagonists, the Emily Blunt character, who gives the two “proper big moments” (the nail and the “bath scene”) could have been totally excised from the film without making much difference at all. After a cracking first 25 minutes or so, this film disappointed me as it was promising to be really really special. It ended up 6/10 which was a shame because they were really trying to do something special. I’ll be seeing the sequel anyway though !
> I love a good jump scare....
I also love a good jump scare but The Invisible Man doesn’t have them (well maybe ONE). It has jump scares but they are neither jumps nor scares and don’t properly fit in.
Benchmark example of a good one. When the kids are hiding in the wardrobe in The Others and the door is rattling and it opens and there is a scary looking old lady there .
This should be right up your street
Browsing Netflx categories I find the two following:
Critically Acclaimed Cinema
Critically Acclaimed Auteur Cinema.
I'm about to look through both lists to try to see the difference but if you have any hints in the meantime......
Auteur usually just means the director also wrote the screenplay. See if you spot that pattern
Yes it works mostly, Inside Man being an exception.
How is Inside Man any sort of exception? It’s just a well made glossy genre film that Spike Lee took as a directing job isn’t it?
Your definition that the director was also the writer applies to most of the Netflix films but not Inside Man.
Finally got round to watching Terminator - Dark Fate at the weekend. It was ok as a story and some of the special effects were pretty spectacular BUT, it seems James Cameron doesn't want to acknowledge the work of the producers of the other terminator movies and has killed off john connor at an early age. Very confusing. I do hope it's not going to be another reboot because I found linda Hamilton particularly annoying.
I guess this will be my last "review of a film I saw in the cinema" (which is what I mostly restrict myself to) for quite a while and I'll move on to more frequent reviews of home viewing experiences.
This is one that I saw 13 days ago but global distractions kind of made me put off writing the review.
The Hunt (2020)
With a trailer that looked like absolute low-end B-movie hokum with a somewhat well-worn set-up (a group of strangers wake up in the middle of nowhere and find that they are being hunted for fun), I really wasn't expecting much from this, and only went to see it because I had a feeling the cinemas were going to be closed down pretty soon.
And....what a great surprise! It is indeed B-movie hokum, but very high end B-movie, and nowhere near as predictable as you think it's going to be. Hard to say much without doing plot spoilers but let's say there's a few major surprises VERY early on, which work well in keeping you on your toes for the rest of the film. There is also a very neat trick played by the screenplay, in terms of blurring the lines between "which side should the audience take?", and a snarky attack on social media (whether that attack is successful or not, is doubtful, but it's nice that a certain aspect has been addressed).
A brisk 90 minutes, it's nice and pacey and anchored by a deliriously fun performance by Betty Gilpin (you may know her as the lead in G.L.O.W. on television). In fact, "deliriously fun" is a description of the film. It is dumb, very violent, has just the right level of black humour to keep it the right side of "tongue in cheek", and is just a nice bit of "switch your brain off and be entertained". It pushes all the right buttons so it gets a delirious 8/10
> Your definition that the director was also the writer applies to most of the Netflix films but not Inside Man.
That doesn't answer my question (I have not browsed the list). Are you saying that it's been incorrectly listed as an auteur film?
> I do hope it's not going to be another reboot because I found linda Hamilton particularly annoying.
If your definition of auteur means having the same writer and director then yes, Inside Man shouldn't be in the list.
Just watched Personal Dresser on BBC player, very very good. Stewart is superb.
> Just watched Personal Dresser on BBC player, very very good. Stewart is superb.
Is that the sequel to Personal Shopper?
Ah yes, my mistake. Verdict still applies.
In response to scenes of weekend crowds on Snowdon and other Welsh mountains, and the announcement of a nationwide lockdown, National Park Authorities in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons have today closed access points and...