July was a busy month. A couple of epic plane rides (the kind you can only manage living in Australia) and plenty of nights alone overseas meant I caught some good stuff. Also some trash, as planes seemed to go well with rubbish films in my mind. Which meant there was definitely no repeat of June’s all Worth Watching month. July also features my most controversial Not Worth Watching of the year, if not ever. This film month also brings back some nice memories of seeing some of these flicks in fun cities like Dublin and Belfast.
- Grand Piano (2013), Eugenio Mira – This is a high concept and well executed thriller that managed to have me totally enthralled even in the surrounds of an airplane. Elijah Wood continues his cool jaunt into genre territory, playing a pianist beset by stage fright who receives a death threat whilst on stage. The structure means it is kind of inevitable things slow a little. But some neat stylistic touches and a really satisfying twist at the end make this a winner.
- Muppets Most Wanted (2014), James Bobin – This really sank without a trace on release which was surprising given the rapture around the previous film. There are some great references and meta-allusions to being a sequel. I’m not a Ricky Gervais fan but he brings a nice smarminess to his role. This succeeds pretty well, mainly down to a clever, witty script and the iconic characters. A charming film where fun, silliness and nonsensical songs fill the void where the plot should be. Plus it features Cristoph Waltz dancing the waltz.
- Divergent (2014), Neil Burger – Wow, what a massive surprise this film was. Not the rubbish version of The Hunger Games I was expecting. There are similar elements, but the bloody incredible cast mean they won’t bother you. There is a dense set of rules and societal castes that give a real sci-fi feel. The film has some good things to say about conformity which set it apart and it is definitely not afraid to be really bleak. Sure, there is plenty of training montage and franchise set-up. But good ones. Impressive.
- Battle of the Sexes (2013), James Erskine & Zara Hayes – A doco focused on the Billie-Jean King vs Bobby Riggs tennis match that also takes a broader look at sexism in sports and the battle for equal pay. Horrid how embedded sexism was (and really still is). Bobby Riggs really was just a publicity seeking misogynist really. There are some unnecessary re-enactments but overall the film looks slick. Billie-Jean is a hell of an inspirational character. Riggs though looks a little like Woody Allen, which is apt cause they are both friggin scumbags.
- Dawn of the Planet of Apes (2014), Matt Reeves – So much of this is really terrific. For starters, it looks incredible. The apes are just mind boggling to look at and their interactions with humans are totally smooth. Must be one of the most technologically advanced films in history. Overall it is a rollicking, if overlong, ride. My other main criticism is that it does feel a little predictable in terms of the beats it hits. You always have a fair sense of where it is going. But there is no denying it is one of the better of the ‘apes’ films.
Not Worth Watching:
- Need for Speed (2014), Scott Waugh – Basically Fast and Furious-lite. Which is far from a compliment. There is a nice little homage to the first person driving perspective of the video game and some decent driving/crashing sequences. Aaron Paul is such a good actor he can transcend some of the script’s lesser moments. But the narrative is just so damn daft. Even worse, I found that in the interactions with the police and even a schoolbus, street racing is just a little too glorified for my liking.
- Boyhood (2014), Richard Linklater – I just did not quite buy in on this one. There is so much to love about this film and its construction. But the first 45-odd minutes are too ‘vignetty’. Also, one character’s story in particular covers familiar plot points too regularly without saying anything new. It was a lot funnier than I was expecting though and Ethan Hawke elevates impressively whenever he is involved. For me though, the film never quite matched the idea of the film.
- Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Justin Lin – I do really like both The Rock and Gina Carano but even they don’t make this much fun. Actually Carano is totally wasted and her acting is more rigid than usual. The plot meanders along, with no weight to the elements that should be carrying the film. They of course manage to wedge a meaningless street race into the film that has nothing to do with the plot. When the set-up for the sequel is the best thing about a film, you have not done well.
- The Station (2013), Marvin Kren – Opening is promising. Uber creepy credits and a great setting – an isolated, glacier bound research station. There’s even a frickin blood glacier! But from there it is all downhill. Really poor practical effects that are 60s Kaiju film standard. Monsters that are either hidden or look garbage. Ham-fisted climate change message. And just derivative of a bunch of far better films basically.
- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), Michael Bay – This is one of the better Transformers films, but it is still terrible. In this one, Bay manages to create one of the most vapid and useless female characters I’ve ever seen. It all looks too much like an ad and the expository dialogue manages to dumb things down more than you thought was ever possible.
- Tammy (2014), Ben Falcone – The first half hour is a decent and refreshingly female driven comedy. Even though Melissa McCarthy is becoming increasingly one-note, she is still one of comedy’s most hilarious performers. But right around when Mark Duplass shows up as a love interest, it all starts to go pretty wrong. The script totally loses its way and there is no thrust to the narrative. The dialogue becomes awkward, growing ever more cliché. Tis unfortunate that such a positive start is so wasted.
If you only have time to watch one Divergent
Avoid at all costs Transformers: Age of Extinction