/ February Film Thread
A rather difficult-to-score one this. I'll settle on 6/10
Rather like Crazy Rich Asians, this was one of those films that isn't really that good but that also doesn't really do anything "wrong", and remains watchable enough.
However, it is clear that this film has some lofty aspirations and doesn't really achieve them. Everything you need to know is in the trailer; if you haven't seen that, well, it's just a story about a working-class white guy in the early 1960s working as a driver for a highbrow academic black musician touring the deep South. And.....that's it! That's the story.
It seems to be trying to be a bit more than an inverted Driving Miss Daisy, but there's no meat to it. It offers trite "life lessons" for both men, but doesn't even make good on those, leaving the whole thing feeling a bit simplistic and cheesy. A real shame because there are hints of a more interesting bit of characterisation e.g . Doc's drinking habit and some other lifestyle aspects (being careful here not to write any spoilers)
I'd like to score it lower but it is at least carried along by good acting, especially from Mahershala Ali and, in a small and thankless role, Linda Cardellini.
The ending is so mawkish and cheesy though. Reminded me of the end of Planes, Trains and Automobiles!
Heaven knows why it's got so many Oscar nominations. I'd say Ali, and the art direction, deserve it. That's all.
NB Mortensen is fine in this, just nothing particularly outstanding, in a year that had a number of stronger potential Best Actor possibilities e.g. Ben Foster in Leave No Trace
No review for How to Train Your Dragon 3? I would say:
While a bit pedestrian and rather predictable for an adult audience it delivers all the things we want from the HtTYD niche: visual spectacle, some coming-of-age character development, comedy sidekicks, rampant escapism and some new dragons. They clearly know what the audience like and hit those buttons hard, see: the bond between Hiccup and Toothless, dragons behaving like goofy dogs. Its weakest part (other than the oddly misjudged first 15 minutes) is definitely the villain who despite being a compelling character is so clearly a rehash of the last one that he adds nothing to the movie other than being a motivator for the plot. An adequate movie but hardly vintage cinema (which the first one arguably was). 4/10
I do go to see stuff like Ralph Breaks the Internet, Sing, Into the Spiderverse etc and I am aware of the HTTYD franchise but it’s not one that I have joined in with yet.
South Korean. A long movie based on a short story (by Murakami).
It certainly shows its roots. If you've ever read Murakami, you'll see the similarities: urban alienation, jazz, a no-hope love that cannot be described as something as passionate as an affair, a slow moving eye than often settles on seemingly random aspects, ambiguity, mundanity and abstraction.
At nearly 2 hrs and 28 minutes, it could do with losing a half hour, particularly in the section prior to the introduction of Ben (Steven Yeun). Ben is an aloof, bored rich kid with no purpose and no demands (on him): he doesn't work, he 'plays', whereas the protagonist, Lee, has to take demeaning, insecure, casual labour or work on the ramshackle family farm (which gives no impression of being viable). Lee appears lost and adrift, with no immediate purpose or vitality and with an unrealised dream of being a writer, one which he does not appear to pursue sufficiently for it ever to be in danger of fruition. This dream serves to illustrate the gap between his actual world and the world of the successful. Ben is the opposite of Lee in many ways and that's good for the audience: he brings a sharpness, an edge to the story and a welcome sense of animation, of the feeling that 'something is going on'. Despite being the bored rich kid trope, he is at least involved in the attempt to feel, however amorally and self-indulgently, and he also appears the more self-aware. He has the time and the resources to dedicate himself to himself. This, I think, is the goal of his 'play': to stimulate his neurons, to pass the time.
These two are brought together through Hae-mi, a woman who is still a girl in many ways, indeed another trope, naive and guileless, and, like both male characters, appears lost in a structureless life, living in a box room which she shares with a shy, nigh invisible, cat, working as a...dancing model outside cheap shopping malls and arcades, looking to entice in customers, such as the aimless Lee.
How these characters meet and how it all pans out, I will leave it to you to experience. I don't want to write anymore as then I am in danger of waffling on and giving away the plot.
It is a movie that stays with you afterwards and there is a lot to recommend but I just wish it was that slight bit shorter, less camera drift over the semi-industrial hinterland of the city. I'd give it 7/10: my wife and I discussed it when we got home and the next morning, analysing the plot and characters.
I'd be interested to know if anyone's seen A Private War?
It's not on general UK release yet, there have been some screenings and there was a nationwide special screening last night with a live Q&A for director and stars, but I'll wait to see a standard screening (last night was a tad expensive and I wasn't in the mood for it)
Sounds interesting albeit a bit demanding. Sounds a bit Wim Wenders the way you describe it. Thanks.
Just seen Eastby in a film.....
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I went to see this with no idea what it was about, aside from it being a drama with Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant both Oscar nominated. Just checked the trailer to make sure I don't give any spoilers...so...
It's a true-life story about an obscure author struggling to make ends meet until she chances upon an opportunity to make money by forging personal letters from noted authors and selling them into the collectibles market.
And.....that's it. That's literally the film. I expected a little better from screenwriter Nicole Holofcener (co-writing with Jeff Whitty here and earning an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay) although looking back, she is quite patchy. Also expected a little better considering all the hype about the acting.
McCarthy is fine and she gets a few Oscar-bait shouting scenes. Grant is Grant, always great to watch and here the role seems tailor-made for him, and he does somewhat elevate the viewing experience hence the score not being any lower.
The problem is that it is a dreary story, it's overlong, and the two lead characters never earn the audience's sympathy. Both are gay in early 1990s New York, and professional failures, and alcoholics, so maybe we are meant to see them as unfortunate outcasts of some sort, but we are given precious little backstory to put us on their side and aside from the main forgery storyline, other facets are really not explored in any meaningful way.
A rather harsh critique that - we enjoyed what you might call an "old-fashioned Hollywood movie" Grant was in his element, and the music fitted the times. Personally I didn't find the characters unsympathetic, and didn't find the story uninteresting, but all a little saddening
A strong 9/10. Could be higher but the pacing loses its way in the last half hour, which is not to say that the film outstays its welcome, just that the time and flashback editing that was very strong for most of the film, weakens ever so slightly.
I went to see this, rather like the film in my previous review, with no knowledge of the subject matter other than that it was a drama or melodrama. I have become a huge fan of Steve Carell (and never even seen a clip of the American "The Office"!)
In terms of premise, this is a drugs movie, about a lad in his late adolescence who gets into all sorts of hard drug shenanigans, and about how his father tries to deal with it all. It's no "The Basketball Diaries" though - this is a well-to-do upper middle class family with a comfortable lifestyle and we are never given any particular moment or reason that the boy starts his drug use. This could of course make him an unlikeable unsympathetic character, and hey perhaps it does (looking back, there were few moments when I was rooting for him).
It's the kind of film that will divide people regarding whether it is artistically strong, or utterly pretentious. I am obviously in the former camp. It does employ a scattershot flashback structure where a flashback does not necessarily tie in to adjacent contemporary scenes. Personally I liked that, and I liked the "digital grain" used on the flashbacks, but some might hate all that. The aesthetic and use of 90s alternative music at least in the first half, made me feel like I was watching a Greg Araki film with all the wacky hipster stuff taken out. There is a change in tone in the second half.
The main thing is the writing, the story and the acting. Carell and Timothee Chalamet are fantastic, totally believable. There is an incredibly powerful scene toward the end involving Carell on the phone to his ex-wife. Regarding the story, it's easy for a drugs film to be melodramatic, mawkish, manipulative and predictable. This film is never any of those four things.
Glad you enjoyed it.
Like it. Stayed awake.
He looked better when he was the Camera-bot, all jagged spikes rather than the ballon-man VW version, but when the bee mask came down he was the business.
The Favourite. Thought it a bit over-hyped, too long, and thus rather self-indulgent. Central performances excellent. Music score crude, crass and verging on the gimmicky in quite few places. Good uses of locations (Hatfield House, etc.); great costumes and wigs. Story: slow start, poor, but picked up nicely in the second half leading me to expect a satisfactory denouement. But it didn't come: in fact, one of the worst non-endings I've seen for quite a while.
I don't like this business of scoring films but I suppose it's about 6.5/10.
Have you seen The Lobster and/or The Killing of a Sacred Deer?
I saw Green Book last night and think you've made a pretty fair assessment. There's nothing wrong with it which sounds like damning with faint praise but actually thats more than you can say of many films!
It seemed to fall either deliberately or on purpose between two themes, was it a buddy film or a more serious piece? Definitely more the former in the end but some wasted opportunities to become the latter.
As an undemanding but not intelligence insulting piece of friday night entertainment it fit the bill which may well have been the intention all along
> Have you seen The Lobster and/or The Killing of a Sacred Deer?
No, I haven't. I don't know if having seen his previous work would have disposed me more towards it. I have to judge it on its merits. I'm always very wary about historical/ biographical movies and strangely, despite its strong performances and refreshingly irreverent, vulgar, Hogarthian ambience, it somehow failed to convince me. And it didn't move me at all. Only moderately entertaining.
Hi Dave, you consolidate what I was saying or trying to say.
> No, I haven't. I don't know if having seen his previous work would have disposed me more towards it. I have to judge it on its merits.
That’s fair enough and I think I alluded to this in my review. It was impossible for me to review it as a stand-alone and I do know a film should be able to stand alone but in some cases you would be benefit from having a familiarity with the director. I’ve been wondering what people would make of The Favourite who’ve not seen at least The Lobster. It would be like having Lost Highway as your first David Lynch
A superb film on very sensitive subject matter. Funny, moving, honest, gritty and with apt nods to the graphic novel it is based on
Really enjoyed this tale of business and associated crimnal troubles in the heating oil industry of New York in 1981, the most violent in its history. The hero is trying to run his company as honestly as possible and as such its almost the flip side of the many gangster movies, despite sharing much common ground. The unusual theme, well told with good performances and plenty of atmosphere, means it's solidly recommended from me.
As there is discussion of The Lobster
I almost recommended it earlier and personally enjoyed the absurdist madness of the film but it seemed beyond marmite heading into victory V territory, despite the stunning line up in the cast. The deadpan matter of fact delivery of crazy shit was spot on for me. I can see why many critics loved it but I suspect most film goers will be a bit bemused.
All Is True: 7/10. An elegiac and rather beautiful meditation on love and loss in Shakespeare's final years, scripted by Ben Elton. Anyone who has watched Elton's Upstart Crow will know he has an intimate knowledge of Shakespeare's life and works and here he combines that with some clever hypothesising and imaginative invention - though the central plot twist probably won't come as a surprise to those who've been regular movie goers during the last year or so. The acting is of course top notch - after all in Branagh, McKellen and Dench we have three of the greatest Shakespeareans of the past 50 years. Branagh gave the best Hamlet I've ever seen at Stratford in 1992 and McKellen & Dench the best Macbeths in 1976. Others will no doubt have different favourites but anyone who loves the bard will relish Serena (in a highly enjoyable cameo as the Earl of Southampton) take on Sir Ken in a sonnet-off, producing fascinatingly different interpretations of number XXIX. The film looks quite painterly, with some gorgeous candlelit interiors, glowing Constable skies and often quite strikingly composed scenes, creating dramatic perspectives for the interiors with huge foreground figures stretching to faces almost lost in the distance, as the family struggles to communicate and reconnect. The irony of history's greatest wordsmith struggling to communicate is handled with deftness and compassion. A charming, thoughtful and moving piece of cinema.
Thanks, been wondering whether I might like this, you’ve sold it well but not sure if I will get a good chance to see it.
love the autocorrect failure there in your post and i am sure Sir Ian would too. Assuming it’s not some in-joke?
I have to confess it's an in-joke, betraying my wannabe luvvie-ness! I do hope you get a chance to see it.
Thanks for the recommendation. Love Muurakami's style of fiction so will definitely check this out.
Alita: Battle Angel.
5.5/10 and I am being a bit generous. Another film that is difficult to analyse and score on my "system" which tries to take into account what the film was AIMING for. In this case, I am clearly not the target audience....but then I struggled to work out what the target audience might BE. First I thought "11-12-year-olds" but then some of the dialogue was so simplistic and spoon-feeding, I thought "8-year-olds?"
Speaking of dialogue, paradoxically alongside some of the spoon-feeding, it felt that there were large chunks of exposition ABSENT. Even the opening caption looks like a quick way to et rid of a 5 minute historical montage, but just comes off as cheap and lazy rather than efficient and "throwing you right into the story".
It's a shame because there are elements here that hint at some darkness and depth e.g. various non-Alita adult characters' histories could have been fleshed out a bit, although I understand the need to not bog things down and make a 3 hour movie (this film is a couple of minutes over 2 hours, indeed one of the kinder things I can say is "at least it isn't Mortal Engines"). But aside from not having some character HISTORIES, it also seems to lurch forward jerkily in terms of character actions, reactions, attitudes and motivations. e.g (MINOR SPOILER) Dr Ido refuses to upgrade Alita in one scene, expressing sensible reservations, and then just upgrades her anyway in the next scene (there is a small motivation for this, but his reversal of attitude is not explained well enough). The film is FULL of crap like this.
Worst of all, the story is muddled (major steal from Rollerball, bits of Zardoz thrown in, bits of other recognisable stories, all fair enough as you have to have your references, but they are not used well) and unfinished. Fair enough they are hoping to build a franchise but surely one should hedge one bets and give it an ending that COULD act as an ending (see: The Matrix).
It DOES look beautiful and convincing, the integration of this photo-real CGI character is amazing. The 3D (Real3D, not IMAX) was weirdly "flat" though - I never felt that there were real solid things in front of me, more just separate layers of foreground, middle ground and background.
Back to my puzzlement about target audience - it is very dark and graphically violent with limbs being sawn off, ripped off, bodies being sliced and eviscerated, eyes being gouged out, characters being immolated etc. Seems that they can get away with this if characters are cyborgs who can be fixed up, but it's a but much TBH, considering that it is a 12A. So it seems too gnarly for young kids and too banal for anyone older than maybe 14....
Some more positives, the performances are decent (Ed Skrein as the villainous henchman was the best, even if he did come across as having been directed to act like Nicholas Hoult) apart from the young male romantic lead who was totally a Poundland Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
I’ve read just about all of Murakami’s books; really enjoy them. Got tickets to see this film on Tuesday. Looking forward to it.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Does what it says on the tin. Another clever, funny, colourful, engaging multi-appeal story. After the first film and the Lego Batman and Ninjago movies, obviously it's impossible for this new one to have anything like the kind of impact of the original, but it would be unfair to say that they are rehashing things particularly. It wastes no time rushing into the new premise of this one and placing our characters in a very witty Mad-Max-style post-apocalyptic world.
It does visit some slightly deep and dark territory, almost touching on the "id", etc. The witty references come thick and fast (where else would you get references to Adam West, Elliott Smith and Ruth Bader Ginsburg?!). Its live action sections are more involving than in the first one (although a bit less Maya Rudolph would have been good) and arguably provide a better life "lesson". It does start to drag on a bit toward the slow ending though, hence knocking some points off. Still a very worthy sequel though.
Norwegian climber Mari Augusta Salvesen has made the first female ascent of the burly Ray's Roof E7 6c at Baldstones in Staffordshire. First climbed by visiting American Ray Jardine in 1977, the horizontal offwidth crack remains a gritstone testpiece...