Worth Watching September 2011

Worth Watching:

  • Easy A (2010), Will Gluck – A high school set, reflexive sorta-adapation of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. A teenage girl is emboldened by her decision to lie about having sex with people. The main character is a little uneven. At times sweet, at times uber-bitch & the tone is occasionally a little cringe worthy. But the incredible cast gets it over the line. Emma Stone is excellent in the main role; plus Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Hayden Church and of course the great Stanley Tucci.
  • Kokoda Front Line (1942), Ken G. Hall – Short Aussie wartime doco that won our first Oscar. Documents the militiamen fighting along Kokoda. A piece of propaganda ramming home the reality of how close the war was to Australia. Great historical document with some awesome footage. But the overt racism of the time does jar badly today. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the whole film in decent quality, so here is the first half:

  • Griff the Invisible (2010), Leon Ford – An Aussie superhero flick with a difference, riffing on Hitchcock, “The Invisible Man” and the burgeoning superhero genre. A shy, bullied guy hides behind a spandex costume to rid the city of crime. Finds his equal in a woman who tries to walk through walls. This is a really nice, unconventional love story served well by Ryan Kwanteen and Maeve Dermody who are both excellent.
  • True Grit (2010), Joel & Ethan Coen – This remake runs a little closer to the book, and features a lot of clever, subtle updates from the original film. Matt ‘I’m a Texas Ranger’ Damon is clearly having a lot of fun here. I don’t think Jeff Bridges is any John Wayne, but in any case it’s Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie who carries the film. She is utterly fantastic, giving one of the performances of the year in an exciting Western.
  • The Green Lantern (2011), Martin Campbell – This was one of the year’s more maligned releases, and I’m not exactly sure why. It is quite the visual spectacle, and features a lot of sci-fi, elements rather than standard comic book fare. It is overlong, but Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively manage not to get on my nerves. Here’s hoping a sequel means we see a whole lot more of the always awesome Mark Strong.
  • The Guard (2011), John Michael McDonagh – Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in a buddy cop comedy. Says it all really. Great action and a ton of interesting characters. Foul mouthed and funny, manna from heaven after all the shit, unfunny comedy films I’ve watched this year. Actually so far this is the year’s funniest, and one of its best.
  • Paul (2011), Greg Mottola – This wavered at the start for me with Pegg & Frost’s witty banter being a little annoying. However the injection of Jason Bateman as a government agent and the awesomely special effect rendered Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan) ups the pace and the enjoyment. Turns into an odd couple (foursome?) road trip across the States. Shame the ‘Thou shalt not be a Christian’ hammerfists get a bit heavy at the end.
  • Pina (2011), Wim Wenders – The first essential experience of this 3D generation is part dance performance, part performance film, part doco and part requiem. The 3D greatly enhances the experience and spectacle of this film, instead of detracting from it like it usually does. A must see.
  • The Reef (2010), Andrew Traucki – Cracking little Aussie cast deliver a taut shark thriller. The masterstroke is using footage of real sharks which combines with the ocean’s vastness to heighten the realism and tension to, at times, barely tolerable levels. This is fierce and intense, at times brilliantly filmed (the initial capsize springs to mind) thriller. Catch it in the comfort of your own home.
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), Werner Herzog – The burgeoning ‘New German Cinema directed 3D documentary’ subgenre continues its surge unabated. The images of the incredible rock art of the Chauvet Cave in France are awe inspiring, and enhanced by the 3D which perfectly shows the contours of the cave. Like all the best of Herzog’s non-fiction this is half meditation, half ramble. Capped off by a wonderful postscript about albino crocodiles which I loved (but you may hate). One gripe – the 3D was a little dicky in my screening especially in talking head scenes where the background seemed out of focus. Not sure if anyone else has had this issue, may have just been the cinema I saw it in.
  • Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), Wisit Sasanatieng – A schlocky Pad Thai western, in fact an over the top hyperwestern. Horribly hammy acting and lurid colours all add to the effect. Unfortunately the intensity can’t be maintained, with the flashbacks lagging. Ultimately though the schlock, and a nicely melodramatic love story make this a pretty original way to spend a couple of hours.
  • Burke & Hare (2010), John Landis – John Landis! He of American Werewolf fame is back behind the camera. This is about as dark as a comedy gets. Dark as in humour in body disposal, mutilation, grave robbing and mass murder. Landis for his part brings fun sound design and period visuals. Pegg is good, but Andy Serkis stars as a desperately broke but entrepreneurial guy. Fun.

Not Worth Watching:

  • The Beautiful Washing Machine (2004), James Lee – A strange, strange film. A man decides to buy an old trade in washing machine rather than a new model. This is a very slow recounting of what appears to be the female spirit that emerges from the machine. She is a manifestation of the deepest desires of those who see her. This ends up resulting in her endless exploitation, reaching its nadir in one of the most distasteful rape scenes I’ve had to endure. So nauseatingly slow and nonsensical that it is difficult to care about anything going on here.
  • The Change-Up (2011), David Dobkin – This film features baby poo, a close-up of a baby’s arse farting & a man getting his mouth shat in. And that’s just the first scene. One of the crasser releases of recent times which trots out the incredibly tired ‘body swap’ storyline. In this film all it facilitates is men treating women like shit, treating kids like shit and carrying out what is apparently every man’s dream – to commit adultery. All the while being wholly unfunny.
  • Sepet (2004), Yasmin Ahmad – This is a Malaysian romance with seemingly pretty low production values. The early relationship is awkward melodrama. Eyes first meet, gazes lock and the music suddenly stops, that kind of awkward melodrama. Too many attempted comments on race and colonisation detract from the central love story, and an obvious ending does not help matters either.

If you only have time to watch one Pina 3D

Avoid at all costs The Change-Up

 

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