February was a bit of a quieter month for me, but it is nice to have the good flicks taking precedence over the bad here. Though there were some definite disappointments, the combo of powerful docos, silly sci-fi and staunchly feminist drama won the day.
- Wild (2014), Jean-Marc Vallee – Whilst this film occasionally overdoes it tonally and stylistically, it’s still a sorely underrated film in my book. Both Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern are arresting, with the former taking the audience on that huge fuckin trek with her. The concept/cliché of life as a journey is encapsulated totally and satisfyingly in this film. The last five minutes of this are genuinely, painfully good. So much so they slap you in the face and remind you why you love cinema and just how powerful it can be.
- Citizenfour (2014), Laura Poitras – An exceptional film. It’s tempting to laugh at one point when a character refers to the goings on as like something out of a le Carre novel, but it’s so true. Poitras has masterfully marshalled a huge story into something digestible, with no shortage of filmmaking craft involved. She conveys the danger Snowden is taking on and the gravity of what he is revealing. She also creates a portrait of heroes for this age in Snowden, Greenwald and even herself.
- Troll 2 (1990), Claudio Fragasso – The hype is real! All I can really say is that if you’re a ‘good bad’ movie aficionado, then this is as good as they come.
- Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014), James Erskine – This has so much more personality and insight compared to Alex Gibney’s recent Lance Armstrong film. Quiet poetic and scientific about cycling it also examines the magic that Pantani, a true throwback, bought to a sport at its lowest ebb. He was an instinctive artist in a scientific, analytical age. The film pushes a very pro-Pantani narrative, but it also captures the human, vulnerable side of him in a pretty universal way. An examination of what happens when a person’s one true passion is taken away.
- Jupiter Ascending (2015), Lana and Andy Wachowski – There’s something about the Wachowskis’ vision that I’m a big fan of. This is silly a lot of the time. But it’s also big, old-fashioned and bloody fun sc-fi more of the time. It looks great and grand too, though it lacks the thematic depth of the best of the genre. On the level of a thrill ride though, it’s exhilarating with a unique kind of innocence to it. Seriously though, what the fuck was with Eddie Redmayne’s performance. So off the mark and awkward it bordered on the unwatchable.
- The Good Wife Season 3 (2011), Robert and Michelle King – This is a show that continues to get better and better. Some aspects of this season work better than others. The hero/villain dichotomy set up between Peter and Alicia is a lot more satisfying than the incorporation of Eli’s PR firm into the main storyline. It buys into some racial norms, whilst subtly subverting some gender ones. Again the characters are where this is really at. Diane, Kalinda and Peter all get more to work with this season. Noth is excellent as Peter, a character delightfully hard to read, part idealistic, part menacing.
Not Worth Watching:
- The Theory of Everything (2014), James Marsh – It’s difficult to imagine a stuffier or more obvious reading of the Hawking tale. Suffers from being neither a biopic or a romance. Well it tries to be both, but is neither. Worst of all, it will make you feel absolutely nothing. Redmayne is obviously very good. But he’s more a mimic than an actor truly inhabiting the role. If anything, Felicity Jones is better. A pretty awful effort.
- Piranha (1978), Joe Dante – I cannot believe I didn’t like this. The opening sequences are the stuff schlocky dreams are made of. Boobs, military test sites and hellacious looking creatures. But it’s relatively slow and bleaker than I like my B movies. The body count is huge, including heaps of kids, and the filmmaking is perhaps a little too good, so I feel bad about that. Too many unnecessary kills and not enough B movie cheese.
- The Interview (2014), Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen – As far as contemporary comedies go, this is ok. But it’s still not particularly good. I enjoyed the first half more. There were some genuine laughs and some of the political points were actually kind of interesting. But once it hits North Korea, it gets overly puerile, silly and well, bland. Despite the absolutely epic brouhaha it caused, this is pretty run of the mill stuff.
- Life of Crime (2013), Daniel Schechter – This, based on an Elmore Leonard novel, is a pretty dire effort. The costuming and music are really reaching for the aesthetic of a period piece. The whole film is reaching really. For that slight comedic, gangstery tone. For something for the really excellent cast to actually work with. To be a good ol’ fashioned farce. It fails at all of these things and just feels really soulless and inauthentic.
If you only have time to watch one Wild
Avoid at all costs The Theory of Everything