The relatively hyped Chilean film Gloria (2013) has just hit Australian cinemas, so I thought I would take a look at it. Much of the hype for the film stems from it’s slightly left of centre love story and the lauded performance of lead actress Paulina Garcia.
Garcia won the best actress award at the Berlin film fest for her titular performance and her turn does deserve the hype. She is very good and essentially the entire film runs through her. Unfortunately though, setting aside the age of the protagonist, there is not actually that much unconventional about the narrative here. Indeed much of it at times meanders toward the cliché. Garcia’s Gloria is a divorcee who at first glance appears tired with life. She has two kids who never bother calling, is always alone even in a packed room, wears old fashioned glasses and dances half-heartedly on nights out. Gloria is adrift in the world. The only place that it feels like she totally belongs is singing in her car (though she is completely alone here too). After falling into a passionate relationship with fellow divorcee Rodolfo however, Gloria’s fun-loving tendencies begin to shine through. The story shifts into a relatively standard trials and tribulations of a budding relationship story from that point. The distinctiveness of having a budding relationship at this age is presented relatively nicely, but most of what you see here, you will have seen before.
It is possible for a film to be too understated and I think that is one of the issues I had with Gloria. I don’t mind a slow going film, but this is very slow going and I think it needed a bit more conflict or pop from the script. Which is not to say it is a bad script (or film for that matter), rather it just felt a little underwritten and that extra detail could have provided a little more narrative thrust which I think the film would have benefited from. There are a number of hints of intrigue simmering just below the surface with these characters. Unfortunately though, these are never brought to the surface. So intriguing would be plot points such as Rodolfo’s true relationship with his ex, where Gloria’s son’s partner is and Gloria’s growing love of weed are never resolved or even examined as they could have been. But again I have to praise the performance of Paulina Garcia here. She really does carry the whole film and it would have been a weaker film without her. Especially fantastic are the moments of pure joy she is able to so perfectly encapsulate and convey through the film.
Gloria has been a bit of a critical darling, so is one that you should probably take a look at despite my misgivings. Not to mention the fact that Paulina Garcia’s performance is worth your time. It never really got going for me, but the languid pace may work a little better for you.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
For Aussie readers, I have five double passes for Gloria to give away thanks to Rialto Distribution. Check out my Facebook and Twitter feeds to get liking and retweeting to go in the draw.
Also, it may be a quiet couple of weeks on the site. I have a fair few day job (lame) and sporting commitments coming up. I have also had the first episode of the Beer Movie Podcast recorded for weeks and still not gotten around to editing it, so need to get on that.
Filmmaker John Pilger is a very important Australian institution. The National Film and Sound Archive once again proved it is the same last week, when it hosted Pilger in Canberra for a screening of his latest film Utopia (2013).
Pilger, an incendiary expat, has been making films about the wrongs of this country, and many others, for around 35 years. I haven’t seen enough of them to say Utopia is the best or most important. But it is one of the best and definitely most important Australian films I have seen for quite some time. Australia has long been a deeply racist country and indeed nothing has changed. This racism manifests itself in many different ways. The horrific deaths in custody and police brutality (normalised and made easier by their new favourite toy the taser). The continued celebration of Australia Day on the offensive date of 26 January, when the British invaded this country (not to mention the widespread incomprehension of why this date is offensive). Also on a much more localised, personal level, the sharing of racist jokes and the like is still far too commonplace, again something only getting worse with the proliferation of social media.
The film opens with one of the all-time great fatcat scumbags of this country Lang Hancock waxing lyrical on what he terms “the Aborigine problem”. His solution is extermination, except for those who have assimilated and taken on ‘white’ values. Yes this is historic footage, but unfortunately the views that Hancock espouses are not too far removed from the views of many today. Before getting into his focus on the plight of Indigenous Australians in remote areas today, Pilger does a good job of sketching out the historical precursors. In particular the continual systematic reduction of Indigenous Australians to sub-human status and the forgotten history of extermination in our past, continued and exacerbated by the continual lack of acknowledgement of the Frontier Wars which were a feature of early European settlement. These wars claimed more indigenous lives in Australia than Native American ones were lost in North America, but which still have no place in our National War Memorial. The title of the film comes from a settlement named (ironically?) Utopia, which is statistically the least advantaged place in all of Australia. Pilger brings us images from Utopia and similar places that are repeated all over central and northern Australia. Remote communities that are neglected by authorities to the point that they are now pockets of third-world poverty in this very first-world country. These regions represent the spiritual and physical home of so many of Australia’s Indigenous population which is why it is imperative that those who wish to, should always be able to live there. Authorities must do more to ensure that this can take place in something other than squalor. Squalor that doctors in the film compare to 19th Century Dickensian England. Squalor that results in one-third of Indigenous Australians dying before the age of 45. Squalor that results in epidemic levels of trachoma, a disease which is entirely preventable and has been eradicated in every single other developed country in the world and of course amongst white Australians. What is termed “the punishing of the Indigenous different” in the film is not restricted to living conditions in remote areas. With around 3% indigenous population, the rate of indigenous incarceration in the country is startling. So much so that Western Australia has just built an Indigenous only prison. So much so that in some parts of the country, Indigenous incarceration rates are up to eight times greater than what they were in apartheid South Africa. As in America today, there are two sets of laws and law enforcement in our country.
Utopia also examines ‘The Intervention’ which was unleashed in 2007 by the conservative Howard government. This involved the use of our military to seize control of remote communities and their rights. It also involved the extraordinary step of Australia temporarily suspending the Racial Discrimination Act. There is only one reason that you suspend a Racial Discrimination Act and that is in order to do something racist. Howard and his cronies (chiefly Mal Brough) justified this by painting horror stories of child sexual abuse in these remote communities. The only problem is that these were based on a lie. A former worked in these remote communities appeared on the ABC Lateline program spinning these tales. As a matter of fact, he was no former worker in the community (he had never spent a night in the community he was apparently an expert in), but rather a worker in Brough’s Department. On another note, the silhouette that his shaded features on Lateline project is the spitting image of Freddy Krueger’s silhouette. Unfortunately apt.
One of the devices Pilger uses in the film is to compare the footage he shot of same of the same communities that he shot 28 years ago with that he shot in 2012. The contrast is startling, mainly because there is actually very little difference at all. The interviews that Pilger undertook with many of the politicians that oversaw much of this total lack of change, including Brough, Warwick Snowden and Kevin Rudd, are equally startling. Each of them bumbles through, in fear of Pilger’s questions. Not because of the interviewer’s aggression (though his questions are rightfully forceful) but because of the knowledge they all have that they did a great disservice to the country in their treatment of these issues, and their unwillingness to be brave enough to let that show.
Pilger’s focus in Utopia is to not to exhaustively detail the solutions that should be brought about by those in power in this country. As he so rightly pointed out during the Q & A, the solutions have been well known for decades, there is just a refusal to actively engage with the problem. The reasoning behind this is twofold. Firstly, with a racist electorate to placate, there is little political traction to be gained by investing time and resources into actually fixing the issues. Secondly, there is a focus on creating the utterly false perception that Australia is a poor country. We are a very rich country. Any country that can afford to sign a contract for $1.2 billion to jail and oppress people legally seeking asylum (as our Government did this past week) is in no way poor. Imagine the great work that could be done on the issues that Pilger presents for $1.2 billion (or for that matter, the work that could be done re-settling those fleeing oppression in their homelands in Australia).
I initially began this closing paragraph by stating Utopia was a film that all Australians must see. But I think it is important to say that this is a film that I would encourage every single one of you to see, no matter where you live. Australia is my country, but it is one with a shameful past and an equally shameful future. I hope that you can all manage to see this film to learn a little more about that.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
Canberra folk, Utopia screens one more time at Arc Cinema at the National Film and Sound Archives on 16 March and also opened at Palace Electric Cinemas in New Acton today.
I was intrigued by the title of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). Would it deliver the seismic shift in the series that the title suggests? After the dire A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) I was not at all confident. Whilst the shift is perhaps not seismic, this is still a hell of an improvement and does actually do a fair bit different.
Most of the really excellent stuff in this entry into the series comes from the Dream Child part of the title and the creative crew behind the series have managed to incorporate a much needed jolt of narrative originality into the film as a result. I think the reveal midway through of how Freddy is getting into people’s dreams is nicely different, as is the appearance of the returning Alice’s child as a toddler in her dreams. Ups the stakes in a way no film since the original has managed to do in this series. I think director Stephen Hopkins and co went out of their way with the opening scenes to separate this film from the fourth last entry. It is shadowy and moody, with a gong tolling ominously and the first real hint of sex that there has been in the entire series. It is instantly a darker and more intriguing take than what has come before. In addition to the Dream Child, the other narrative aspect of this that is incorporated well are the flashbacks and references to Freddy’s past. Again, plenty of this is really dark and at times a little confronting – the scene that gives us a glimpse into Freddy’s conception in particular. I was a little concerned that this focus, coupled with none on Freddy’s child murdering crimes, would make the character sympathetic. But for me, the film never fell into that trap. The film does get a little silly at times, but it always manages to keep that on a pretty short leash. Actually at times the more humourous side of Freddy is actually quite engaging and amusing, without detracting too much from the horror storyline that we are meant to be absorbing.
Initially, once out of dreamland, I had grave concerns that the acting and characterisations were going to be unbearably kitsch. Thankfully though, with one notable exception (the acting performance of Joe Seely as Mark), this is really not the case and the film probably has the most interesting characterisations and relationships of any of these films. One of the best aspects of that is the return of Alice’s alcoholic father in this film. He is probably the first character who has satisfyingly grown from one film to the next. Alice, as played by Lisa Wilcox, is also a great recurring character, a surprise given how unmoved I was by her in the fourth film. The character and acting are a lot stronger here. You can really feel her desperation as she fights for her unborn child, as well as her friends around her that she loves so dearly. In addition to at least some level of narrative originality, what sets the good films apart from the bad ones in this series is effective imagery. Again, this film nails that pretty well. A battered and torn pram is great and comes back a second time with some fantastically spiky additions whilst the ultrasound scene veers into slightly absurd, but innovative looking territory. Against all better judgement as well, I really dug the look of the creepyarse Freddy baby. Also, some of the set pieces in this are as good, if not even better than anything else in the series. The early car sequence and the one involving a dream on top of the diving board spring to mind immediately.
It appears that the odd numbered films in the series are where all the quality is at. The classic original, the return to form of number three and now this have all been comfortably the highlights of this series. This one is so refreshing after the fourth and lives up to the title by incorporating the Dream Child into the narrative and utilising it to raise the stakes in both a story and visual sense. I suspect this may be the most underrated of the bunch, given I am not sure too many people out there are big fans of it. But count me as quite the pleasantly surprised fan.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
If you enjoyed this one, please take a look at my other Elm Street reviews: The classic first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
Film marketing cops a lot of flack. And for good reason, so much of it is utter garbage. I was as excited as anyone for Anchorman 2 (2013), but that excitement was tempered by the marketing for the film. For starters it was uninspired, but more than that it was just absolutely everywhere. You could not turn anywhere without seeing the lame attempts from the Anchorman crew at something they were desperately hoping would go ‘viral’ and all manner of other buzzwords. Unfortunately most film marketing falls into this basket. There is very little original and engaging. Most film marketing seems obsessed with getting traction and clicks online rather than doing something original and exciting us filmgoers.
Every so often though, a film really nails the marketing mix. More than any other of recent memory, The Lego Movie (2014) has achieved this. I have already spoken about the batch of character posters and trailer. Both of these were really fun and conveyed the glee that I think we were meant to feel in anticipating the film. In addition to those, there were also a smaller batch of character posters released which I think tapped into some of the unique humour that the film is aiming to bring to life. Check out a couple of these below.
Something even cooler than all these posters was brought ot my attention by Ruth over at Flixchatter. This ‘Behind the Bricks’ featurette is a really inspired DVD extra style video. Check it out below if you haven’t seen it. Once again is that overwhelming sense of fun that all the marketing is giving off as well as a well pulled off bit of meta, self-reflexive humour which is pretty hard to do without coming off as pretentious. I really love this little video.
Are you guys a fan of the approach that The Lego Movie has taken in its marketing? Also, what are some of your other favourite film marketing exercises? Hit me with some thoughts in the comments and feel free to link to your favourite posters, trailers and videos.
If you’re going to use the phenomenal “Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio in a trailer, you have to respect that track with some cool material. I have to say, I kind of like how it is used in this teaser for the upcoming Melissa McCarthy vehicle Tammy (2014). I am a massive fan of McCarthy’s, she is one of the top few film comedians working these days. Hopefully the film does not entirely consist of jokes about her size, of which there are a couple in the trailer, but anything that has her in a major role I will be sure to check out. I like the vibe of the trailer and think the matching of the classic hip hop track with the bungling robbery attempt is pretty hilarious. Let me know what you think of this one.
January was another predictably massive month for me in terms of film numbers. Some of these you will have already seen in my top and bottom films of 2013 lists. But there is plenty of other really good (and terrible) stuff in here as well. Apologies this is much later than usual. Have had my old man around doing some work on the house and also, it took me a while to write so many freaking reviews. Be sure to let me know what you agree and disagree with in the comments section below.
- As I Lay Dying (2013) James Franco – Even though his films are barely ever seen by anyone, I like Franco as a director. This is really interesting visually, use of split and half screens throughout. Really like how it looks. The film nails the rural, pastoralist tone. The performances are mostly good – Franco, Danny McBride in a small role, Jim Parrack, Ahna O’Reilly and Logan Marshall-Green all excel. Only Tim Blake Nelson with a distracting turn lets the team down. Overall, despite not setting up the abrupt change in one character at all, this is really well made and definitely unsettling (as it should be).
- Welcome to the Punch (2013), Eran Creevy – There is probably no better screen bad guy around than Mark Strong. This is a really good, solid cops and robbers flick. James Macavoy who I don’t always love is good in this too. Nice to see a genre film willing to have complex characters on both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides. Whatsmore, without jeopardising all of the killing and snappy crime film dialogue, the film also really examines these notions of criminality and ‘goodness’.
- The World’s End (2013), Edgar Wright – I perhaps did not have the same level of anticipation for this as most. This is a comedy about yearning for something that had long since past… oh and aliens. It also shows that Simon Pegg has some real drama chops, as his is the character that opens up all of these concepts around destiny and how to cope with an ordinary life. The film is charming and funny, perhaps a little less so initially when the aliens are brought in. But the over the top action set pieces that involve them turn into one of the film’s chief joys.
- Antiviral (2012), Brandon Cronenberg – From the very get-go this is all about the creeping, sterile imagery. A near future where people pay to be infected with viruses of famous people, including STDs. I am a massive fan of Caleb Landry Jones who stars in this and who is I think the most promising young actor I’ve seen for the last couple of years. Whilst the script gets a little wordy making its points, this is a good slow burn film. A really impressive combination of body horror and sci-fi with one major criticism – way too many needles.
- Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011), Takashi Miike – Never know what you are going to get with Miike and this is another surprising entry into his filmography. It’s not as action packed as many a samurai film, preferring to examine ideas of honour and the place of ritual within that life. After a slow start it settles into a nice gentle rhythm with some heartbreaking plot points. Ebizo Ichikawa gives a heartbreaking, knockout performance in the main role.
- Gangster Squad (2013), Ruben Fleischer – I was quite a fan of the visual style of this which really emphasised the LA setting. It’s all very neo-noir with shadows and sharp edges everywhere. It is not the most original gangster flick, but the cast are mainly good with Gosling and Brolin making a crack double act. This helps to make the film watchable, given the rest of the film, especially the undercooked script, is pretty slight. Watchable enough though.
- The Crash Reel (2013), Lucy Walker – This doco focuses on Kevin Pearce, a snowboard hopeful for the 2010 Winter Olympics who suffers a major head trauma in training. Concussion and serious head injuries are a major issue in many sports today and this film uses one athlete’s story to show just how seriously the issue should be taken. The aftermath of his injury is pretty confronting, as is the arduous emotional journey that it causes his family to go through. It is always a good sign when a doco is prepared to show its subject flaws and all (in this case a selfish obsession to compete again), and that helps to make the film all the more powerful.
- Anchorman 2 (2013), Adam McKay – Most of the plot and best jokes in this film are recycled wholesale from the first film. But with the talent involved, there is no reason that cannot be hilarious – see the news team brawl iteration #2. Large swathes of the film miss completely though. The jokes about Ron’s African American boss for example fail. It hits just enough though and when it hits, it is inspiringly good.
- Epic (2013), Chris Wedge – It is refreshing to see an animated film with interesting and adult ideas about biodiversity. And these manage to be addressed throughout the film, even as they become more buried underneath a cliché storyline. Some cool use of colour, not just bright as well, there are some blacks and greys in there too. It’s not innovative, but in the end it is good enough. It helps that I am a sucker for a cute animal sidekick and a three legged old pug is as cute as it comes.
- A Hijacking (2012), Tobias Lindholm – Moreso than the more famous hijacking film of recent times, this gives a window into a world we all rely on but never really consider. I absolutely love the focus on head office. Showing the business side of things and the high stakes negotiations that are going on. Really interesting. I think the approach from two angles is a real point of difference for the film. Plus, it manages a really satisfying ending.
- Frozen (2013), Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee – I think it is clear that Disney are making better films than Pixar at the moment. An early love story is weak, but it builds and the main narrative about a young woman who cannot control her incredible power is satisfying. All of this is on the backdrop of some excellent, fantastical world building. My one quibble is that I was not a fan of the songs. They were annoying and too frequent.
- Philomena (2013), Stephen Frears – An exceptional film and was pretty close to my top 10 for last year. Coogan and Dench have the most wonderful chemistry. Props to Coogan as well for writing a script that balances the humour that comes from this ‘buddy’ relationship with the devastating, based on fact story. This approach elevates material which may have otherwise have been unbearably bleak. The film manages to tell at lease three nuanced and engaging character arcs which is no mean feat.
- Amour (2012), Michael Haneke – More than a little reminiscent of Umberto D (1952) this is a film about what it means to be old and how that feels on a daily basis. The breakdown of the human form, both physically and mentally is difficult to witness and it is on frank display here. The two leads Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant give very real, very nuanced performances. As well as all that, this is a film about how love remains and how it is remembered long after everything else is gone. Haneke is a director assured enough to not feel the need to force or overstate emotion. He knows the emotion is intrinsic to his material.
- The Human Scale (2012), Andreas Dalsgaard – I never knew a doco about architectural theory could be so interesting. The film explores ideas related to how you measure, and improve, the happiness of an entire city. The role and preference for, the car is a central theme. It is incredible how opening up the city for human, on foot interaction can make such a difference. Would be great to see the reclaiming of public space ideas espoused here take off. An interesting watch if you can get your hands on it.
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), Kenneth Branagh – Wow, what a fun throwback spy film. Has all the elements – a ticking time bomb at the end, the Russians are the baddies, the CIA, covert meetings in a cinema and so on. Driven along at a good pace by cracking performances from Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Chris Pine and Kenneth Branagh. Branagh, also on directorial duties, has done away with unnecessary exposition and plot twists which results in a refreshingly zippy running time of well under two hours.
- Thieves’ Highway (1949), Jules Dassin – For a Dassin film this starts off strangely and off-puttingly melodramatic. What begins as a revenge thriller evolves into a strange love story of sorts. Gets by thanks to some good performances and sharp editing. There is also some really good tension created. Not Dassin’s best but there is no shame in that.
- Her (2013), Spike Jonze – I liked this a whole lot more than I was expecting. There is so much that really should not work, but thanks mainly to the screenplay, it really does. The performances are really great. Phoenix deserves all the plaudits he is getting and if those responsible for dishing out awards wanted to be bold for once, Johansson would be cleaning up too. A great film that manages to be a sexy smart sci-fi laugh out loud comedy about a man falling in love with an operating system. Quite the subgenre.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), Ben Stiller – Filled to the brim with rare originality for a big studio release. A couple of lapses in tone but aside from that tis assured direction from Stiller. I love the journey of the main character, from someone who must daydream to a guy who lives his dreams. And it does it without being too cliché. Balances a bunch of different worlds very well. Stiller, Penn and especially Kristen Wiig are all really good.
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012), David O. Russell – Bradley Cooper is exceptional at a guy struggling with mental illness and I think the depiction of mental illness is vastly better in this film than most. There are moments of very funny comedy mixed in with the heartfelt. So well performed, Lawrence is wonderful and it is nice to see Chris Tucker in something that isn’t a Rush Hour film. A very good non-traditional love story that examines the place of things like dance and football in life.
- The Conjuring (2013), James Wan – Without a doubt one of the scariest films I have ever seen. Wan is so good at atmosphere and this is terrifying from minute one. An old school haunted house set-up with doors creaking open and things going bump in the night. Wan has that rare ability to both pay homage to, and update genre tropes in the same film. The young female cast are all really good in this too.
- We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013), Alex Gibney – Gibney once again shows that he is probably the cleverest doco maker around these days. This is a worthy examination of the propaganda war that swirls around Julian Assange and Wikileaks. It delves into the Chelsea Manning aspect of things, which is interesting, but I can’t help feel that the film would have been better served focusing just on the Assange side of things. Very interesting insights throughout though, especially on the differing ethical worldviews of journalists and hackers. It also looks at how Assange’s personal flaws have really hurt his website in the propaganda war. The film does lose its veneer of objectivity at times and I found the treatment of Manning by the film problematic. But it is still a worthy entry into Gibney’s filmography.
- West of Memphis (2012), Amy Berg – The West Memphis Three, victims of the most infamous case of wrongful imprisonment in America’s history are the focus of this exceptional Peter Jackson produced doco. It starts off focusing on the victims, which is good because they are often forgotten in this kind of film. If you need yet another illustration of how those in power despicably manipulate, look no further. The emotion of horrific crimes breeds misjudgement, both consciously and unconsciously. This is a bleak but important film. I do warn you though, some of the footage is quite confronting.
Not Worth Watching:
- Trance (2013), Danny Boyle – This didn’t make the usual dent in filmgoer consciousness that Boyle films do. Can kind of see why as well. A clumsy setup for a twisty heist film. Once Rosario Dawson’s hypnotist arrives things do get a little interesting, mainly because she is the only character that is at all interestingly written. The occasionally fascinating character motivations and psychology were not enough to make me buy into this silly film.
- Frances Ha (2012), Noah Baumbach – This is much hyped. It has gone straight to Criterion I believe. For me, it was just covering the same material as Lena Dunham’s work, without any of her charm or humour. The characters are annoying, not helped by the forced performances whilst the dialogue veers into eye rolling territory far too frequently. Mind numbing and very difficult to actually bother finishing.
- Conan the Barbarian (1982), John Milius – Arnie is a terrible actor and this may be his worst performance of all. The entire film is almost comically bad taking place in the most 80s looking middle ages ever. Almost worth watching to laugh at some of the choices they have made. James Earl Jones wears what is comfortably the worst wig I have ever seen. Possibly the only script to ever have negative character development too. Unfortunately there are some interesting themes about the nature of violence, but they are totally buried under the much.
- Stoker (2013), Chan-Wook Park – Taking cues from Terrence Malick, this is real arty n shit. I am a massive Mia Wasikowska fan. I think she is a major talent who can convey a lot without words. Some of the high style and performances were good. But I didn’t really get anything they were going for here. The usually excellent Matthew Goode is poor, mainly because of how he is being asked to play it. They are going for tonal and atmospheric but it fell flat for me, with holes in logic and a woeful last 30ish minutes. I also think the connections with Hitch’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) are fairly overstated.
- Only God Forgives (2013), Nicolas Winding Refn – I absolutely hated the most divisive film of last year. Unlike the brilliant Drive (2011), there is nothing here to sink your teeth into. Rather, it just feels like Winding Refn is trying too hard, whereas his last effort seemed so natural. A nasty film, irredeemably so. Drive achieves everything this film is aiming for so much better.
- Side Effects (2013), Steven Soderbergh – This has it’s moments. Rooney Mara is really good and it effectively nails the patter of real life early on. But it flushes that away with a repeated jarring of believability. It switches very abruptly from drama to thriller and fails totally to set up its grand conspiracy ending. Mainly because by the time they get around to it, you are far past caring.
- Pain and Gain (2013), Michael Bay – Michael Bay… lol. This has an absurd script and tone for something based on fact. The Rock is the most charismatic action guy in the biz tody, but he is crippled in this by his character’s garbage back-story. Bay peppers his film with a lot of racism and misogyny and feels that it is appropriate to laugh at things we really shouldn’t. There is absolutely no one to root for in this overlong, tiresome and just plain terrible film. It seems no matter what he is trying to do, Bay cannot escape his crassness.
- American Hustle (2013), David O. Russell – A massive disappointment. Nothing really happens. Yeah the performances are decent underneath the silly hairdos, with Lawrence far and away the pick of them. But I was totally uninvested in both the characters and the story. Something about the design was a bit silly for me. Big let down after O’Russell’s wonderful previous effort. Having a screenplay that felt half finished doesn’t help.
- Anna Karenina (2012), Joe Wright – The interesting stylisation worked for me initially. The story was not that arresting though, but I’m not sure if that is the source’s fault. The staid nature of proceedings made it hard for me to invest emotionally. Anna is a strange character, simultaneously sympathetic and not. And I don’t think the film came to grips with that at all. Maybe it is not possible. When a subplot (that of Kostya and Kitty) is more interesting than the main story, you have issues.
If you only have time to watch one Her
Avoid at all costs Only God Forgives
I’m not sure how many of you read the great site Forgotten Filmcast. If you have any interest whatsoever in classic film or obscure cinema, then I highly recommend you head over there, take a look around and subscribe if you like what you see.
Todd from Forgotten Filmcast was kind enough to invite me to be part of the awesome podcast he records as well. So if you are keen to hear my laidback Aussie accent do battle with his laidback American one, head here to have a listen. We ramble for a little while and then hop into an in-depth discussion of the early Alfred Hitchcock film Number Seventeen (1932). It is not the best of Hitch’s early work, but I think anything by the great man is worth having a sneaky look at. The film is well and truly in the public domain, so if you are keen, take a look at it right here:
Be sure to let me know what you think of the podcasts if you take a listen.
As you all probably know, this year I am aiming to review 101 out of the 1001 films to see before you die. I am a little behind with only four reviews posted so far. But I am still pretty confident of meeting my goal. I have a bunch more that I have watched and taken notes for, I just need to find the time to bash out my thoughts on them.
In any case, one way to boost the number of reviews is to live-tweet a couple as these are very time effective ways for me to review films. Whilst I generally like to do these on lighthearted films I can take the piss of, I think the form still works when dealing with more serious fare as well.
So here is the deal. You get five choices in the poll below. I am letting you choose more, so hopefully I am more likely to review something you are keen on. The poll will be open for exactly one week. Then after that, I will live tweet review the top three choices, spread out over a two or three week period. If you don’t have twitter, don’t worry because I will also post the end results on this site.
Get voting, even if there is only one you are interested in. Of course feel free to chime in with what you chose and why in the comments section below.
The very first scene of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) gives you a good insight into the 90 minutes you are about to endure. As the credits roll an utterly horrific 80s power ballad thunders in the background. I am quite confident in stating that it is the worst horror film credits track of all time. Actually, to say that the horrible credits sequence is an accurate taste of what is to come is a little harsh… on the horrible credits sequence. Because despite the miserable song choice, there is something worthwhile in it, namely the very creepy and cool images that the song is doing an excellent job of ruining.
Seeing the film you are checking out is directed by Renny Harlin is never a good sign, and a Nightmare on Elm Street 4 proves that adage. In an attempt to seamlessly connect this film with the excellent A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), the film brings back Joey, Kristy and Kincaid. Bringing back beloved characters is always a good move. But bringing back characters that no one really gave a shit about first time round (speaking as a massive fan of the third film) smacks of desperation and the fact you couldn’t afford the decent characters. Not only that, this is a connection with the excellent third film on a superficial level only, with no connectivity in terms of tone, theme or quality. Also, if you are going to bring characters back, at least do something with them. Don’t just kill them all off un-climactically in the first act of the film. Unfortunately this narrative choice is reflected throughout the film as the plot is teen slasher paint by numbers of the highest order. Plenty of people have told me how the series descends as it becomes more and more comedic, especially the character of Freddy. There were hints of that in the third film, but the balance between humour and horror was more or less spot on in that film. Here though the Freddy character is too far gone into the realm of comedy and he lacks totally in menace. This got me thinking actually that in none of these films, even the better ones, the audience is not particularly aware that Freddy is a child murderer. I’m not so sure that is a good thing.
The major problem with this film is not that it is bad (it is though), but that it just feels utterly and irredeemably unoriginal. Every sequence feels like it is some amalgam of parts of the first three films. Not only that, rather than combining and improving on the aspects it borrows, it all feels worse, somehow like a ‘lite’ version. Not content to rip off earlier films in the series, the film is also a raging success at ripping off parts of basically every big film from the 1980s – The Karate Kid (1984), Back to the Future (1985), The Fly (1986) and Ghostbusters (1984). Not only is this painfully obvious and cheap, it also makes parts of the film feel totally out of place and like they belong in a completely different film. The part that borrows heavily from The Fly is especially guilty of this. Thankfully though it dispenses with the 80s-ness of the second film. Aside from the power ballad at the start. And then continually repeating the line “major league hunk” in one scene. Oh and absolutely every single thing about this film which is one of the most 80s of the 80s. Time has not been kind to you A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors. Not that you were any good to start with.
I think I have made myself abundantly clear on this one. It even pales in comparison to the first sequel which was no fun at all. It is silly and lacks any of the charms that this series has brought so far. Any film that manages to make a ‘final girl’ letting fly with the phrase “fuckin A” after suiting up for the final battle sound utterly lame, deserves neither your respect nor your support.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Another Nightmare on Elm Street review will be coming your way next week. If you have missed any of my earlier reviews, be sure to check them out: The classic first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
No doubt you guys have already seen these, but just in case, I thought I would share. I would feel bad if you guys happened to miss out on literally the worst thing ever on my watch.
I am looking forward to Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013). I don’t think his films always work entirely. But they definitely always make you think which is more than you can say about most directors. And to those of you who think that character posters should be just for superhero films, our man Lars has no time for you.
Seriously though, posters of the film’s characters at the point of climax is exactly as gross and disturbing as you suspect. Check them out below and… erm let me know your favourite, if you are weird and have one. There are 14 of these, but I felt a random selection of six was more than enough.
Stellan Skarsgard plays a dude who takes in the film’s main star as she tells her life story.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is turning into a bit of a von Trier go-to star. She plays the titular sex addict.
Shia Lebouf who since filming has gone on a bit of a Joaquin Phoenix style very public (staged?) anti-fame breakdown style thingy.
Connie Nielsen plays the mother of the Gainsbourg character.
Billy Elliot, presumably not playing Billy Elliot.
Sophie Kennedy Clark in a role which I assume is a slight change of pace from Philomena (2013).