This started out as a pretty slow month watching wise. But a bout of sickness and getting Netflix toward the end of the month boosted my numbers. Even thought the quality looks relatively even on paper, I have to say overall it was a poor month. There is nothing here I downright loved, whilst quite a number of the ‘Not Worth Watching’ selections I utterly hated. Read on and share your thoughts in the comments below.
- The Master (2012), Paul Thomas Anderson – Only my second PTA film and I feel strangely ambivalent about this one actually. Anderson shoots in an old fashioned and expansive way, which surely looked amazing projected in 70mm. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is totally commanding and magnetic from the first glimpse. It’s easy to buy into him as a charismatic cult leader. The film is best when focusing on that character and the impact he has on his followers, as well as making the correlations with scientology more overt. Overall though, it didn’t quite come together as something I out and out loved.
- Atari: Game Over (2014), Zak Penn – Everyone knows the story of the T Atari cartridges buried in a desert landfill. It’s a strange decision to couple that story with a history of the early days of Atari and the video game industry. But in the end that history, the hedonism of the glory days & the role of the interactivity of early video games in ushering in the computer revolution, is actually very cool. In contrast the coverage of the attempted excavation of the cartridges feels pretty contrived. A fair celebration of geek culture overall though.
- Wyatt Cernac: Brooklyn (2014), Wyatt Cernac – For a stand-up special, this very Brooklyn-centric piece is quite funkily shot. The little puppet interludes are a lot of fun too. Initially I dug Cernac’s delivery style. But over time it starts to feel a little too smarmy. He’s all about pitter patter jokes rather than storytelling. It’s never too deep. But the reflections on being an African American male hit the funny bone a lot harder than the more domestic riffs on weddings and the like.
- The Good Wife Season 4 (2012), Robert & Michelle KIng – It’s not the best season, but this continues to be an ace show. A lot of the early part of the season gets bogged down in the storyline of Kalinda and her husband, which is confused and adds nothing to the overall show. Similarly, Cary is brought back into the fold but then barely seen. But a bunch of solid guest stars such as Amanda Peet and Cristina Ricci provide good performances whilst Alan Cummins is almost the star of the whole season in his ongoing role.
- Aziz Ansari Live in Madison Square Garden (2015), Aziz Ansari – I have become a huge fan of Ansari’s thanks to his work on Parks and Rec. He is a good storyteller as a stand-up, spitting jokes and seguing really smoothly between topics. He’s a relatively progressive dude as well and he interacts well with his audience. Apparently encores are a thing in comedy now.
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015), Tina Fey & Robert Carlock – This much hyped show started really slowly for me. But over the second half of the season it picks up a lot. It breezes by, though I felt like I missed something in the early episodes. There are a bunch of really fantastic performances which help to overcome scripting that falters pretty regularly. It’s often mildly amusing though, especially when it goes a little more farcical or absurdist. The way the show really finds its groove late in the season, means I will almost certainly be tuning in for next season.
- The Two Faces of January (2014), Hossein Amini – I’m a big fan of the three leads in this one. Kirsten Dunst is underrated and she proves it again here, flanked by Oscar Isaacs as a petty conman and Viggo as a big-time conman. It’s a very old fashioned and chatty film. Despite the characters being well set-up, it’s hard to care for the love triangle plot. A very picturesque slow burn that is really too slow with a story that is too simplistic for a thriller, as well as stakes that are never high enough. In the end it just feels tepid and lightweight.
- Insurgent (2015), Robert Schwentke – I quite liked the first in this series, but this is woeful. It’s totally incomprehensible if you haven’t seen the first in the last day. A script so bad it makes all of the really exceptional actors on board turn in really poor performances. It looks whack as well, so fake and awkwardly shot. A borderline inept film.
- Fast and Furious 7 (2015), James Wan – I have no idea why critical perception of these films has shifted. To me, they’re all awful and this is no different. Wan is brilliant, but he either can’t direct action or had his skills blunted by the studio. A baffling array of utterly illogical plot points culminates in a conclusion that is so loud, long and repetitive that you will be lulled to sleep. The script is frequently cringeworthy, which is a perfect complement to Vin Diesel’s performance. Credit where credit’s due, the tribute to Paul Walker the film ends on is absolutely pitch perfect. Look it up on Youtube rather than bothering with the film though.
- Elles (2011), Malgorzata Szumowska – I was hoping this would delve into some interesting issues, but all it delved into were the deepest depths of my sheer boredom. Juliette Binoche plays a journalist writing an article about student prostitution. I think she is meant to be challenged and changed by the experience. That doesn’t really come out onscreen though. About as tired and cliché a dramatic film experience as you could hope to have. None of that is helped by the erotic reminisces, flashback as exposition and attempts at sensual shots of food.
- 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard – I just could not penetrate the veneer of wankiness and pretentiousness that seeped out of this doco. Perhaps Nick Cave is an artist that just doesn’t resonate with me. I know it is not solely his creative baby. But this feels so exceptionally self-indulgent it’s hard to imagine anyone but Cave himself enjoying it. Perhaps Cave fans would get a kick out of seeing him work and construct his music. Outside a couple of sequences of Cave chatting in his car to Ray Winstone or Kylie Minogue, nothing here pleased me at all.
- Frozen (2010), Adam Green – No not that one. This is a B movie with an awesome premise that is utterly, utterly wasted. Three totally annoying college students get stuck on a frigid chairlift overnight. Shattered bones poking out of legs, skin getting stuck to the frost laden poles and wolves ensue. Despite that sounding so exceptionally awesome, it is an unrelentingly suckful experience. Terribly forced and populated by three characters, all of whom happen to be morons.
If you only have time to watch one Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Avoid at all costs Frozen